Sustainable feed production – where do phytogenics fit in?

10-03-2023 | |
Sustainable feed production –  where do phytogenics fit in?
Photo: Canva

The future of animal nutrition was discussed in the last stop of the “Conneckting the world” tour of German-based animal nutrition company Dr Eckel. After stops in Thailand, Indonesia and Brazil the tour wound up in November 2022, in Braunschweig, Germany, ahead of EuroTier 2022.

Dr Carsten Malisch

About 40 animal nutrition experts from all over the world gathered to hear ideas around sustainability and animal welfare in feed production. Dr Carsten Malisch kicked off the conference. From Aarhus University in Denmark, this researcher had a very interesting presentation in which he discussed several bioactive compounds, how humans have been using them for centuries and – nothing is ever straightforward – how even within types of compounds there are differences.

Plant secondary metabolites

He introduced “plant secondary metabolites” (PSM), components in plants that are not essential for growth or survival but can nevertheless be useful. Well-known examples are caffeine and opium. In the presentation he talked mostly about tannins and discussed their effects on ruminants, which are his specialty. Tannins, he said:

  • Have anthelmintic effects (dealing with nematodes);
  • Have anti-inflammatory effects (the effects in monogastrics);
  • Prevent bloating; and
  • Reduce methane production.

All in all, at least in cattle, the substance offers more than enough to be a good alternative for antibiotic ­growth-promoters, he said.

He closed off with a list of plants that have promising PSM, including chicory, jackfruit and the quebracho tree. Interestingly, he said, the quebracho tree does have high tannin content, yet the anthelmintic and anti-inflammatory effects of these tannins are limited – if any at all. That is why ongoing research is necessary.

Successfully feeding the future

Dr Bernhard Eckel

The next speaker was Dr Bernhard Eckel, who expanded on the topic of phytogenics and how they can facilitate successful feeding of the future. One of the owners of the animal nutrition company, he painted a slightly gloomy picture of trends towards hardly any rain and an ever-growing population. Can the trend be stopped?

He said that management holds the key to all this – feeding management, farm management and also animal management. Sincere attention for those components leads to both animal welfare as well as efficiency, he argued.

He referred to the United Nations sustainability development goals for perspective, and how the company’s product line could support these goals:

  • No hunger (with feed optimisation, up to 4% more poultry meat can be produced)
  • Health and well-being (with feed optimisation, animals will be more resistant, antibiotic usage will be lower, and thus indirectly also human health improved)
  • Sustainable production and consumption (feed optimisation saves 12.3 million tonnes of feed).

Enhancing animal welfare

Anne Möddel

Next on stage was Anne Möddel, senior technical sales manager for Dr Eckel. As the company often emphasises the animal welfare aspect of its product range, her focus was to demonstrate that the product line AntaPhyt (based on hops and liquorice) leads to welfare effects. She mentioned:

  • Better air quality because of dryer litter quality, leading to less ammonia generation;
  • Cleaner animals, as the faeces is stable;
  • Improved hygiene for the same reason; and
  • Fewer foot pad lesions.

To emphasise the economic aspects, she shared results of various trials on broiler chicks, heavy breeder hens and commercial laying hens. In the last example, involving 50,000 broilers, she said that better health and welfare had led to more than 82,000 extra eggs.

Introducing the IFF

Professor Werner Sitzmann

The following 2 speakers introduced the nearby Research Institute of Feed Technology (IFF), which is also located in Braunschweig where the event was held. In a short contribution, Professor Werner Sitzmann, acting director of the institute, explained how the institute, which stems from 1961, represents many known and well-known feed companies from Germany and beyond and currently has a budget of € 1.4 million for researching the impact that machines are having on feed production. He talked about the effects that residence time, particle structure and steam addition during processing have on the feed quality. “This is where we see our USP. Everything depends on processing.”

Sustainable feeding solutions

Patrick Sudwischer

His IFF colleague Patrick Sudwischer then took over to explain what he thinks makes sense if we are to sustainably feed the world. He had 5 messages for attendees to remember.

  • Local protein sources can actively contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases. He touched for instance on slaughter by-products, locally grown soybeans (Donau Soja) and plant-based protein sources, preferably those that are resistant to drought and legumes.
  • Circular economies should be established.
  • The best ways to reduce micro-organisms are well-chosen farm conditions.
  • Insect materials, for instance, the Black Soldier Fly larvae, can only be fed fresh or processed, he explained. He shared research that wet processing actually yields lower contamination levels of Enterobacteriaceae than dry processing. In other words, the method of processing determines the hygiene status of the feed.
  • Research innovation with regard to treatment processes should receive more attention.

Phytogenics for the future

Dr Viktor Eckel

Closing off the event was Dr Viktor Eckel – the next generation in the Eckel family. He summed up three trends that the future holds for the world of animal feed. Animal welfare is the first, sustainability the next, and the third is innovation. Feed of the future, he said, needs a multifactorial approach.

He discussed the phases of innovation, from an impulse phase to evaluation and, eventually, technology transfer. The impulse phase could be any development, like pressure on raw material supplies or increased demand for animal protein. In terms of evaluation, he discussed how hops are being used for food applications, as well as pharmaceutical and technological applications. The leftovers, pomace (full of polyphenols), are also useful, as his company shows. Technological transfer, he said, then becomes visible in the company’s Ecknowlogy programme, sharing knowledge and technology.

Ter Beek
Vincent Ter Beek Editor: Pig Progress
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