How feed ingredients boost poultry nutrition, performance

New innovations and emerging technologies can help poultry producers improve the birds' efficiency in using the nutrients in their feed. Learn more about these tools and how they can improve performance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the entire poultry supply chain.

David Tadevosian I
David Tadevosian I

New innovations and emerging technologies can help poultry producers improve the birds' efficiency in using the nutrients in their feed. Learn more about these tools and how they can improve performance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the entire poultry supply chain.

During “Net zero and the future of sustainable poultry production,” a panel discussion recorded by and Evonik Animal Nutrition at the 2023 International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE), a trio of industry experts discussed the things poultry producers can do to accelerate net zero and other sustainability goals.

The panelists were: 

Andy Rojeski, head of strategy, investor relations and Net Zero programs, Pilgrim’s

Faazi Adam, director of sustainability, animal nutrition line, Evonik

Lara Moody, executive director of IFEEDER

Terrence O’Keefe, content director, WATT Global Media, moderated the talk.

Terrence O’Keefe: I know we've talked about some of the changes in how crops are going to be produced in the future. Some of those might have additional costs, but then some have benefits from an efficiency standpoint, if you are using less fertilizer and less of other inputs. 

I know in crop production today throughout the United States, there are different practices used based on what the local climate is. I guess one of the challenges going forward is there isn't going to be one solution for doing this, it's going to vary locally, right?

Lara Moody: When we look at crop production  from my time in the fertilizer space and hanging out with my soil agronomy friends  the answer is it depends. That's true of a lot of things in sustainability as well.

But, when you're dealing with cropping systems, it depends on the temperature, it depends on the type of soil, it depends on the pH, it depends on the cultural practices, it depends on the crops that are being grown. You can't grow a cover crop and have minimal disturbance on root crops like potatoes or carrots. I know that's not a feed stuff, but those cropping systems matter. And we can't always grow cover crops in our northern climates and have a successful growing season. 

We have to find ways to optimize those five pillars for regenerative agriculture, as best we can in in the systems that are local to us.

O’Keefe: Precision agriculture is going to have to play a role in this as well, right?

Moody: Precision agriculture is particularly significant in the fertilizer space. Precision agriculture really gives us the ability to dial in specifics to each of the areas of a cropping system are each area within the field. 

From a sustainability perspective, there's a lot of value in intensification, because it brings us efficiencies. We do not want to inhibit productivity at the cost of sustainability. We found that out it with Ukraine this year and the impact that losing productivity or losing access to grains has on the market and our ability to perform and the potential implication that had for sustainability. In a good way, I think this puts more recognition that we have to maintain productivity in the system as a part of sustainability. 

Precision agriculture allows us to do that because it allows us to dial in to the places in the field that are the most profitable and the most productive. Relative to regenerative agriculture, it allows us to dial in the nutrients specific to where we can get the most out of them.

O’Keefe: Even as we move towards net zero feedstuffs, it's still going to be better for the industry to be as efficient as possible in how we use those, how we formulate the rations and how we encourage the bird’s gut to digest as efficiently as possible. 

Faazi, can you help us out with you know, what are some of the technologies that are available today that producers can be employing to improve their feed efficiency?

Faazi Adam: Absolutely. To follow up on the conversation about how important the local context is when you're thinking about sustainability efficiency, that goes for nutrition as well. It's really, important for food producers and for farmers to really understand in as much detail as possible what the nutritional profile of these products are because it can vary so much with time and with weather. 

As we start to see more of these regenerative practices grow and become more popular, then this is something that we're really going to need to continue. Engaging in nutritional analysis through infrared spectrometry is going to continue to be really important. It’s something that's widely used today, but it’s going to grow in importance to help understand the amino acid profile, the fatty acid profile and anti-nutritional factors in your ingredients.

With that extra knowledge, you're able to think about what kind of micro-ingredients do I need to really achieve a consistent quality in my feed that's going to give the best benefit to my animals consistently over time. I think that's going to be something that's going to grow in importance, as we see sort of the rise of regenerative agriculture and more companies adopting net zero strategies as well. 

As an example of a specific product that that can really help here, GuanAMINO acetic acid is a precursor to creatine. If you include this in poultry diets, you can really increase the energy metabolism and decrease the dietary energy requirement in the feed. This can reduce costs for poultry farmers, especially if they're seeing the ingredient prices for feed going up. Through our own calculations, we've estimated that in a high feed price environment, this can save about $20 to $50 per ton. So that's one way that we can also increase feed efficiency.

Moody: As we have innovations within the industry and people are bringing products and additives and enzymes and probiotics to the market, I think it's really important that we communicate the scope of the opportunity to reduce the footprint through those products. Because when we engage with our downstream customers, they often look at the feed footprint and they want to put all of the emphasis on regenerative agriculture, which is a very important element. But I think they sometimes miss what it is that the feed industry itself can bring to reducing the footprint. 

I think that we can help them see that by demonstrating the efficiencies you're talking about and how they translate to a reduction in the footprint. Until we show that to them, they're not going to understand it. And they're going to keep putting all of the emphasis on regenerative agriculture, which is absolutely important, but the feed industry brings a lot of other innovation that can help with the sustainability space as well.

Adam:  You're right and I'm happy you brought that up. It's something that's been a key focus for Evonik. For a long time, we've conducted LCAs for nearly our entire product portfolio. And for our key product for amino acids, we actually have externally certified studies showing that for our customers, it can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and the water use quite considerably. It depends on which species you're looking at and which region you're looking at, but in terms of greenhouse gas, you can save almost up to 20%. I think there is more that we can do to communicate these benefits along the supply chain.

O’Keefe: It really is important to look all the way through and see what the final results are. I saw a presentation earlier today where a gentleman was talking about energy efficiency in the mill itself. And he said that the most important thing you have to look at is if you're reducing your energy usage, but aren't producing a good pellet, it's going to cost you more in feed conversion, which is actually going to reduce sustainability way more than what you're gaining by not having expended the energy at the mill. 

Most integrated poultry companies would say "we always think that way. We look at the impact on the final product." But we tend to get in silos sometimes. We have the goal for our piece of the of the supply chain, but we really have to factor in how that goal affects all the way through the chain.

Andy Rojeski: I think that's a great call out, Terrence. It’s important to make sure all the stakeholders understand not only in terms of how their piece impacts greenhouse gas reduction, but also some of the downstream or upstream implication of some of these choices. You've heard us talk quite a bit about making sure that we have the right data in place with the right folks who can go ahead and make the right decisions, especially as we take a look at the supply chain. Having that full visibility and understanding and in that partnership mentality to ensure that we're collectively doing the right things for the business and for the environment is going to be critical going forward.

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