Feed additives that, under commercial conditions, are proven to save money are something of a holy grail. If you look at the range of materials we can possibly add to a ration, we end up with a bewildering complexity that, if I was to be glib, would remove the need for any nutrients!
Caution needs to be observed to amalgamate the appropriate package either for general or farm-specific use. The whole purpose is to fine-tune the feed programme with macro nutrients and raw materials so growth and performance is optimised.
Under the correct circumstances, each additive will have a role to play. Enzymes, particularly phytase and xylanase, are widely used and each reduces the cost of the ration, either by reducing the amount of expensive raw material required, or by improving net digestibility of lower-value commodities.
The next tier of feed additive would be essential oils and organic acids, which on a per tonne basis actually increase the cost of a diet, but can improve the performance of the animal with better feed conversion and/or cost/kg gain.
We then have prebiotics, such as the sugars discussed in this column in November’s issue, probiotics, nucleotides, flavours, sweeteners and binders (both mycotoxin and bacterial). In general, with the exception of phytase, all these additives add cost’ to the diet.
More recent developments in antioxidants have led to a new generation of additives that actually save cost. Oxidants are brought about by the metabolic processes of the body – such as respiration, growth, maintenance and immune function. Free radicals’ result from these processes which, if not dealt with by antioxidants, will damage the body both in terms of tissue damage, but also in further metabolic processes.
Vitamin E and selenium are the usual materials used to counter the effects of free radicals. Within feed we now have additional natural products with known and proven antioxidant activity. Of course, we have known about these products for many years and – a clue – they would effectively come as part of your five-a-day routine.
The natural antioxidants that I’m alluding to are the components that colour fruit and vegetables such as xanthophyll carotenoids. Some of the components of seeds also have natural antioxidant activity, and research continues to identify these super foods’.
From a human perspective, we have watercress, blueberries and beetroot, but these are impractical for use in animal feed. We do, however, have polyphenol compounds extracted from materials such as grape seeds, which recycle vitamin E in the body. As these polyphenols actively recycle vitamin E, less vitamin E is required to be added via the premix, which then costs less.
So, even though we have a plethora of additives with a definite value, they also have a perceived additional cost. Recent developments now mean that we’re in a more favourable place of having an additive that not only has value, but also reduces cost – which is something of a rarity.
> Born in Essex, schooled in Suffolk and a graduate of Reading University, Dr Phil Baynes has spent his career in pig welfare and nutrition. Now based in Cheshire, he runs Baynes Nutrition and is a consultant nutritionist to Provimi