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Breaking the code to better digestion

SPONSORED: True Check has the ability to screen diets or individual feed components with and without feed technologies much more rapidly and economically than costly animal trials

June 29, 2015

3 Min Read
Breaking the code to better digestion

SPONSORED: With 70% of production costs coming from feed, a question on most producers’ minds is “Are they getting the most from their feed?” To get a pig to 290 pounds, it takes around 700 pounds of feed; that’s 2.4 pounds of feed for the animal to gain one pound. This challenge has producers constantly worrying about commodity prices. But is their focus in the right place? Many forget about the wasted money that comes out the other end as undigested feed. Focusing on feed performance is arguably more important than a mere cost focus.

Cereal grains and oilseed meals make up the majority of swine diets, yet contain many forms of nutrients that are unavailable for digestion in monogastric animals. The ability to quickly and accurately evaluate the advantages of nutritional technologies, such as enzymes, in swine diets is coveted. Feed technologies have demonstrated the ability to improve feed efficiency, reduce the need for more expensive feed ingredient supplementation and also decrease the environmental impact of waste materials. One challenge in evaluating these technologies is that the in vivo studies traditionally relied upon for evaluations of feed technologies are relatively costly and time consuming in comparison to in vitro digestion techniques.

Simulating monogastric digestion

Alltech True Check is an example of an in vitro digestion system developed to evaluate diets and impacts of feed technology in monogastric animals. This model was designed to mimic the real-life conditions of digestion in the swine gut by controlling pH, time and temperature in the lab. Enzymes that would be naturally produced by the animal are added in appropriate quantities and at appropriate times to further simulate the digestive process.

True Check has the ability to screen diets or individual feed components with and without feed technologies much more rapidly and economically than costly animal trials. After digestion is simulated, nutrient availability and digestibility values are obtained that can guide the producer in feed formulation and cost savings.

“Pigs are generally limited in their ability to digest non-starch polysaccharides present in the diet,” says Kyle McKinney, applications research scientist at Alltech. “This challenge has sparked significant investments in the research and development of exogenous enzymes in the industry.” These enzymes, such as cellulase and xylanase, are designed to reduce the negative effects of these materials on digestion.

“NSPs can increase the viscosity of digesta, reducing the effectiveness of natural digestive processes and, consequently, the nutrients absorbed,” McKinney says .

The inclusion of NSP-degrading enzymes can allow for higher use of fibrous materials like DDGS or grasses in swine diets while maintaining performance. In vitro digestion systems may be utilized to evaluate diets with different combinations and levels of enzymes and NSPs to optimize utilization in swine diets.

Building predictive models

Near infrared (NIR) technology has a long history in the feed industry as a quality control check for incoming feedstuffs. Often, NIR is used to verify minimum nutrient values of a particular feedstuff or to detect contaminants prior to or during delivery. Models based on NIR technology are readily available for grains, such as corn, or oilseed meals, such as soybean meal, to analyze for values such as moisture, protein or fat.

Consequently, changes in these data show that feed technologies are allowing us to build predictive models that can aid in feed formulation. In vitro screening in combination with the NIR technology allows for even further advancement in evaluating the diet, providing a more rapid output of additional nutrient data with application in feed formulation decisions. 

Currently, over 10,000 hours of digestion have been simulated using the True Check swine model for feed evaluation. The results have helped producers identify opportunities for enhancing their feed. The quick turnaround that in vitro screening provides, gives producers the ability to break the code of their feed’s performance and analyze methods to improve gaps in their nutrition. 

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