Future of poultry nutrition
Consulting nutritionist Dr. Robert Schwartz foresees continued improvements in poultry feed conversions and corn and soybean genetics.
WATT PoultryUSA: What is the future of ethanol production in the USA?
Dr. Robert Schwartz: I can’t see us sticking with corn for use in ethanol production. The subsidies are what are keeping the corn in ethanol production. Corn is not a viable energy source for ethanol. The ethanol industry is here to stay, but in the future it will use cellulases to convert cellulose to ethanol. This new technology will allow corn stalks and other high-fiber by-products to be used to produce ethanol at a much lower cost than when corn is used. Sugar cane, sugar beets and/or their by-products are also viable options.
WATT PoultryUSA: What future do you see for DDGS in poultry feeding?
Schwartz: I don’t see a future for DDGS in poultry feed. The energy has been taken out of DDGS, and products with energy are needed for poultry feeds; that is why we use corn.
WATT PoultryUSA: DDGS don’t even have a future as a substitute for soybean meal?
Schwartz: Not at all, because DDGS is still corn based, so it is very low in lysine. It will go into ruminant feeds. It works great there. It will go into replacement pullet feeds and some sow rations, where you are looking for low-energy feed ingredients. DDGS is really a substitute for wheat midds-type ingredients.
WATT PoultryUSA: Do you foresee bans on feeding ruminant by-product meals to poultry spreading from Europe to other parts of the world or to the USA?
Schwartz: Actually, there are fewer bans. In Holland and Germany, some of that is subsiding. Even in the UK concern is subsiding somewhat, and they are talking about allowing some more products in there. While the Europeans may not be using many animal by-products in their feeds, they do use a lot of fishmeal. They end up with very expensive diets. I calculated their cost this summer when I was in Holland, and the European feed cost of production is about 50 percent higher than it is in the USA.
WATT PoultryUSA: With higher corn prices expected in the USA in 2007, with proper enzyme supplementation, will birds perform as well on wheat diets as on corn?
Schwartz: Performance can be just as good with wheat diets as corn diets. Typically, wheat is attractively priced in the USA only once every seven to eight years. Wheat is still not cheap enough now for substitution. In light of the increases expected in ethanol production next year, corn prices probably won’t be as high as some people think. What is really going on in corn markets is a lot of speculation. Speculators have come out of the oil markets and driven the corn markets up. Exports of corn at these prices will probably be down as well. Exports of corn are up right now, ahead of when it would normally happen, because people are worried about how high the price could get. But by the summer, exports of corn will be down overall because of the price. The technicals and fundamentals are definitely out of whack at this point. There really isn’t much of an alternative to corn in the USA for animal feed production. The only way to reduce usage is to decrease animal production.
WATT PoultryUSA : Will feed formulations use more supplemental amino acids, so that feed can be formulated more closely to the birds’ actual requirements with less total protein put in the ration to reduce the total nitrogenous waste in the manure?
Schwartz : Lysine has been readily available for use in animal rations for 20 years. Some threonine can also come into play. There appears to be a minimum nitrogen requirement for the body to produce the non-essential amino acids, so we are probably getting close to the lowest level we can have for protein. But what has happened over the years is that our feed efficiency is so much greater. We can produce a quantity of protein with a lot less protein and amino acids in the feed than we ever could before.
WATT PoultryUSA: What efforts can be made to reduce the amount of fat on a broiler or turkey carcass?
Schwartz: This is a problem on tom turkeys. Companies have trouble making their 97 percent fat-free claims on their turkey ham. It is virtually impossible. Geneticists are working to increase breast meat yield, which automatically shifts the carcass composition away from fat towards protein. As the bird gets older, more protein per unit of energy is being fed than ever before.
There is a lot of variation between strains of broilers in regard to fat content. Low-energy diets with a higher than normal protein-to-energy ratio can be fed to reduce the amount of fat on broilers. Nitrogen excretion, however, will also be a little higher.
WATT PoultryUSA: How low can broiler feed conversion get?
Schwartz: One of my clients is a genetics company that has floor-pen-raised, eight-pound male broilers, and the individual birds have feed conversions ranging from just over 1 to 4. So, there is still a lot of variation there, which indicates there is room for a lot more progress.
WATT PoultryUSA: What about feed conversion in turkeys?
Schwartz: Sixteen-pound hens can now have feed conversions under 2. Twenty-five-pound toms are somewhere in this vicinity as well. Remember that we feed a ration that is 12 percent moisture and are measuring meat that is two-thirds water.
WATT PoultryUSA: What about the future of feeding at the hatchery or feeding in ovo?
Schwartz: There is some in ovo work done with enzymes and antibodies, but some things can be done with turkeys the first week of life. Supplemental feeding in the poult boxes gives a response, but after three weeks that early response has disappeared. So, when you look at the overall economics, supplemental feeding hasn’t paid off. Anything done will have to improve livability for it to be economical. Metabolism and natural immunity are very active areas for research and is where the next big improvements are going to come from.
WATT PoultryUSA: Could crops be genetically engineered to improve digestibility?
Schwartz: I think that there will be some changes to be more specialized. For the non-ruminant, 20 percent of the carbohydrates in soybeans are not digestible. This loss can be improved dramatically. The problem is the cost of segregating the various kinds of soybean products.
WATT PoultryUSA: Will it be more economical to tackle this problem through increased use of enzymes in the feed?
Schwartz: The problem with enzymes is that they are proteins, and adding a general protease to the feed can break down other enzymes, like phytase, as well. I have received calls from producers who have had problems and don’t realize how careful they have to be when adding these enzymes to their feed. Certain enzymes are denatured by heat and others are denatured by other enzymes. This is an area where there will be continual improvement.
Eventually the phytase genes will be inserted into the corn and the soybeans, so that phytase does not have to be added at the feed mill. In time, the industry will figure out how to solve the logistics problem of separating different types of corn or soybeans. It could very well be that the large integrators contract more directly with the farmers and they take care of it this way, rather than buying through the large dealers. Once they start doing that, there is enough volume from the large poultry companies so the grain traders will go along with this.
WATT PoultryUSA: Will poultry companies vertically integrate backwards and take more control of where their grain comes from?
Schwartz: We will see more of this in the future. There is more variability in protein content and energy content and availability of the nutrients in one variety of corn than the next. It really would behoove the poultry integrators to work with elevator companies who can manage that for them. This would require more of a cooperative agreement.
WATT PoultryUSA : What formulation changes can be made to help birds that are raised commercially antibiotic-free?
Schwartz: Primarily, good management in the houses helps with flocks grown without the use of antibiotics. For birds usually given 0.7 square feet per bird, it might help to give them 0.75 or 0.8 square feet per bird. Companies might put in three inches of litter, instead of trying to skimp by on one inch.
In cases where a necrotic enteritis challenge is anticipated, the pH of the birds’ water might be lowered at around day 15 to day 16, a point at which the necrotic challenge often occurs. One client’s organic broiler operation had livability of 94 percent to 95 percent last year. Properly managed antibiotic-free or organic operations can achieve very good results. I have clients whose operations do all three types of production – antibiotic-free, organic and regular production – and in some cases the organic birds perform the best. This is particularly true if meat and bone meal and bakery products are used in the regular rations, and none of these are in the antibiotic-free or organic rations.
WATT PoultryUSA: Is it harder to grow antibiotic-free turkeys than it is to raise antibiotic-free broilers?
Schwartz: Not really, three clients raise antibiotic-free turkeys. The E. coli problems that require flouroquinolones are the result of poor management. The days of being able to survive with poor management are over. In the United States, if the consumer wants antibiotic-free product, we can raise it. The increased cost would be about $0.02 per pound, maybe even less depending on the area of the country. In antibiotic-free turkey production, no injectable antibiotic is used at the hatchery. The normal first-week mortality target is around 0.8 percent versus maybe 1.2 percent to 1.4 percent, so there is some additional level of mortality in flocks.
WATT PoultryUSA: Are there other challenges that you see for the industry in the future?
Schwartz: As the birds continue to get more efficient, we just have to continue to become better managers. The poultry programs at our agriculture universities have been downsized and consolidated. There is already a real shortage of trained poultry people coming out of the schools. There is going to have to be more cooperation between the industry and universities in order to supply the young people to meet the poultry industries’ demand.