Feed and nutrition innovations help beef production shift to the future

Posted on May 29, 2017 by morwebadmin

Glass half full, or glass half empty? There are different ways to view the increasing pressure to limit the use of antibiotics across animal agriculture, including in beef production.

The new expectations present a big challenge. But they also create opportunities – specifically, by placing a stronger focus on how livestock industries can make better use of other options in the toolbox.

Feed and nutrition is one of the areas getting a lot more attention. In part, because of the pressure around antibiotics. But also because this is an area undergoing a lot of innovation. Advances in science are leading the way. Industry players, including major feed mills, are adjusting systems to help producers provide what the marketplace wants.

Reducing antibiotics, meeting new demands

Country Junction Feeds, based in Wetaskiwin Alberta, is a good example of those stepping up to help all types of beef operations transition to the new demands.

The company has long taken a proactive approach to staying ahead of the game on feed and nutrition requirements, as it builds on a 100-year history serving customers across the province, the country and into the U.S. Most recently, Country Junction Feeds has invested in major upgrades to its facilities and systems to become one of the first large-scale ionophore-free, antibiotics-free feed mills.

“The push toward antibiotic free is happening a lot quicker than many expected,” says Bernie Grumpelt, ruminant nutritionist at Country Junction Feeds. “Our focus is helping producers provide what the marketplace is demanding. There’s no silver bullet to replace antibiotics, but there is a lot that can be done through feed and nutrition strategies, to keep as many animals as possible on an antibiotic free stream without sacrificing performance, health or overall profitability. In fact, the results can be much higher across the board for operations that take advantage of the latest options.”

Ionophore-free, antibiotics-free mills

The emergence of ionophore-free, antibiotics-free mills is a major step, he says. “More and more, producers are going to have to prove the feed they use is from an antibiotics-free facility. It’s pretty clear that’s the direction the industry is headed.

This requirement is already on the way in new programs processors are establishing for antibiotics-free pork and poultry, for example. “Beef is further behind but is moving down a similar path,” says Grumpelt. “We want our mill and our system to provide assurance of antibiotic free, so that our customers can then provide that assurance on down the value chain.”

Aligning with new rules

One thing clear with the new Veterinary Feed Directive in the U.S., and similar new rules anticipated soon for Canada, is that use of antibiotics to support growth or other purely production purposes will be prohibited.

Antibiotics use will only be allowed when there is a specific health issue to address and when the use is done under veterinary oversight in compliance with new rules.

But with improved feed and nutrition strategies, including ones that take advantage of innovations with bio-based feed additives accepted in the new environment, producers can meet the new expectations without sacrificing results, says Grumpelt. Feed and nutrition strategies can also play a larger role in supporting the overall health and welfare of the animals.

“It takes a change in mindset,” he says. “But the opportunities are there. The science has advanced. The knowledge has advanced. There is a lot of benefit to taking a fresh look at your feed and nutrition program.”

Top innovation areas

Key areas of recent advances for beef cattle nutrition include:

  • Precision diet balancing – much greater sophistication and real time analysis to identify and offset deficiencies in local ingredients.
  • Quality and palatability optimization – new higher-impact options to boost intake and gain.
  • Reproductive health strengthening – greatly improved micro-nutrient balancing to support stronger heats, higher conception rate and a shorter calving season.
  • Stress protection – use of innovative nutritional technology to slash stress-loss experienced (weight loss, dark cutters, etc.) especially during key times such as weaning, regrouping and transport (also helps meet rising animal care and welfare expectations).
  • Disease prevention – new options to raise the bar on immunity, gut health and other key factors to protect against disease.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to reducing reliance on antibiotics, says Grumpelt. But with integrated strategies customized for the needs of each operation it can be done in a way that minimizes risk for the producer.

“Keeping ahead of the curve is a good strategy. Especially when you can do it in a way that keeps the risk low and the potential return high. That’s the opportunity now for beef operations that take the time to update and expand their toolbox.”

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