In my previous blog I discussed “epigenetics”, one of several new concepts appearing in the technical pig press. Farmers seem rather uncertain of what are these new concepts and easily confuse one with another, writes John Gadd. In discussing them at meetings, the pig producer’s understanding of them seems to have got into a proper muddle. So much so that many have given up trying to find out more about them, which is a pity because, as I see it, some are either more affordable or cost-effective than others.
Here are two more that are new-ish, as they’ve been around for many years, but still inadequately understood. Neutraceuticals, especially, of which dozens now exist commercially, and which you see many adverts and mentioned in field trials in the press.
Some look to be more important technically than others. So in the next two blogs I’ll go on to write thumbnail sketches on genomics and nutrigenomics, and the latest arrival on the technical scene – accelerators. No, these are not growth promoters under another name, but something quite different; certainly new, likely to be important and useful for the working pig producer
For now, however, the dictionary definition of neutraceuticals is: a health-enhancing product or strategy. This is too comprehensive to mean much to you or I! However, the term is now applied to feed supplements containing plant extracts. Nothing much new about that you correctly say, but other more obtuse names being used for them nowadays are phytobiotics and the overall topic of phytogenetics (the “phyto” bit coming from the Greek word for plant). Essentially, we’re talking about plant extracts and green products of the old days, when many plants were recognised for their ability to promote growth and improve health.
For the past 15 years an absolute deluge of trial work has appeared on some 15 different plants, and this ignores those on fungi, seaweeds, spices and algae. Many commercial trials seem to me to be over-optimistically positive. So, which one to choose – as an alternative to an antibiotic growth enhancer, for example – is difficult, especially as many of those I have read about provide only vague or no evidence at all of likely economic return.
The performance advantages they claim can be tested to a certain extent by using the late Dr Gordon Rosen’s Seven Key Questions to ask salespeople. While not a comprehensive answer to these enthusiastic claims, the responses – or the lack of satisfactory ones – will certainly sort out the men from the boys.
This can narrow the choice to perhaps one or two of them, that can then be referred to a friendly pig nutritionist (their effect can be different in poultry) for an opinion.