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Animal Nutrition Views

Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D., gives his views on poultry, pig and dairy nutrition based on his experience as a nutrition consultant with clients around the world.
Livestock Feed Manufacturing / Animal Feed Additives

Animal feed nutrition: When you think you know everything

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Most universities and research institutions have ceased looking for new nutrients and functional compounds

March 28, 2017

Nobody believes we are missing something. We know all nutrients essential for maximal and efficient animal production, and the exact levels we need to make it profitable. Such notions are often exchanged among people who work in nutrition but are not nutritionists themselves.

This reminds me of a question I asked a good colleague of mine, a consultant specializing in the Asian market, many years ago. When I first met him, I ventured to ask why Great Britain stopped their stellar research efforts and became a follower when they used to be a leader. His response was “because our prime minister thought we knew everything there was to know about agriculture.” As it happened, Great Britain soon lost almost half its national pig herd, its position as a research leader and a valuable export commodity. They are still struggling!

I can offer two examples that prove we are far from knowing everything.

Back to nutrition; I can offer two examples that prove we are far from knowing everything. Vitamin B12 was discovered way too late compared to the other nutrients. This was because this vitamin is stored in the liver, and it passes in the egg that supplies the chick with long-term supplies — it takes about 5 years for vitamin B12 to be completly eliminated from an organism. Thus, chicks from hens well-supplied with all nutrients, when fed purified diets without this vitamin, seemed to grow just fine. Only when chicks from vitamin B12-depleted hens were produced was it possible to demonstrate the essentiality of this vitamin.

A final example regards the “antibiotic” nature of 5 percent grass juice. Long time ago, it was considered as good as antibiotics, and there were serious studies proving it. Only when copper sulphate was discovered as a growth-promoting agent in poultry, researchers realized and proved that it was not the grass juice but its preservative (you may have already guessed, copper sulphate) that gave the antibiotic-like equivalency. As it happened, 5 percent grass juice provided the diet with 100 ppm copper, a level found sufficient to promote growth.

It is unfortunate that most universities and research institutions have ceased looking for new nutrients, functional compounds or something that must escape our understanding. Instead, many are consumed reproducing old studies if only to secure funding to continue their existence. This, in my opinion, is the outcome of the lack of public funding. I am all for private/commercial research institutions because they offer a valuable service, but we must never stop dreaming of the future!

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