9
International Relevance of Feed Composition Information

PHILIP THACKER

University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Some people believe feed resources would be better used if fed directly to humans, instead of animals. However, animal proteins, including meat, milk, and eggs, generally have higher nutritional value than do plant proteins in terms of their amino acid composition and the amounts of minerals and vitamins they supply.

With the exception of vitamin B12, it is possible to obtain a nutritionally adequate diet solely from plant sources, but many people prefer animal protein. Per capita meat consumption in virtually all countries of the world is directly proportional to per capita income.

Vast acreages throughout the world, including arid and semiarid lands, are simply unsuitable for grain production. However, these lands can be successfully used to produce forages. Ruminants can graze forages and convert them to animal proteins. Pigs and poultry do not compete directly with humans for their food supply because feed grains (field corn, grain sorghum, barley and oats) are much different than food grains (rice and wheat).

The livestock industry has also evolved to use byproducts from human industries. For example the crushing industry makes polyunsaturated fatty acid-rich oils for human markets. Byproducts of this industry are canola, soybean, sunflower, and safflower meals, which are used for livestock feeding.



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Scientific Advances in Animal Nutrition: Promise for the New Century, Proceedings of a Symposium 9 International Relevance of Feed Composition Information PHILIP THACKER University of Saskatchewan, Canada Some people believe feed resources would be better used if fed directly to humans, instead of animals. However, animal proteins, including meat, milk, and eggs, generally have higher nutritional value than do plant proteins in terms of their amino acid composition and the amounts of minerals and vitamins they supply. With the exception of vitamin B12, it is possible to obtain a nutritionally adequate diet solely from plant sources, but many people prefer animal protein. Per capita meat consumption in virtually all countries of the world is directly proportional to per capita income. Vast acreages throughout the world, including arid and semiarid lands, are simply unsuitable for grain production. However, these lands can be successfully used to produce forages. Ruminants can graze forages and convert them to animal proteins. Pigs and poultry do not compete directly with humans for their food supply because feed grains (field corn, grain sorghum, barley and oats) are much different than food grains (rice and wheat). The livestock industry has also evolved to use byproducts from human industries. For example the crushing industry makes polyunsaturated fatty acid-rich oils for human markets. Byproducts of this industry are canola, soybean, sunflower, and safflower meals, which are used for livestock feeding.

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Scientific Advances in Animal Nutrition: Promise for the New Century, Proceedings of a Symposium FEED COMPOSITION DATABASE Literally hundreds of different feeds can be successfully fed to livestock, which raises the need for feed composition databases. Animals require approximately 40 different nutrients to allow them to grow, reproduce, and produce milk, meat, eggs, or wool. Knowing how much of these 40 different nutrients a feed contains is necessary to properly formulate balanced diets. The National Research Council (NRC) publishes and updates the nutrient requirement series of domestic animals. These books are considered the “Bible” of animal feeding and are widely utilized by livestock producers, feed manufacturers, veterinarians, extension agents, and researchers. The back of each of these series contains information on the nutrient composition of feed ingredients particular to the species that it was written for. These tables are produced by various NRC subcommittees and are really the only feed composition tables that are subject to peer review. Although the NRC publishes feed composition tables, it does not maintain a feed database. In fact, no national feed database exists in North America. Utah State University previously had the only feed database, but it was discontinued in 1990 after being transferred to the National Agricultural Library. Now, the only sources are a few private databases run by companies. Within the NRC, each subcommittee develops its own estimates of the composition of feeds independently. Each subcommittee compiles as many feed data sets as possible to create an average that is most representative of the feedstuff in question. But this averaged value may not always be correct in all situations. For example, cereal grains feed compositions are affected by the cultivar, climate, stage of maturity at harvest, the soil composition, fertilizer, and storage practices. Processing techniques that the feed industry uses also alter nutritional composition; so, one feed value will not always be representative of all samples. Published values are also influenced by the techniques used to analyze the feedstuff. A major problem of building new databases out of old ones is that the older techniques used to analyze the feedstuff were not documented and were often simply not accurate. So, the bottom line is, virtually all of the feed composition values currently used really are not accurate enough. They belong to the horse and buggy age, and it is time to travel to the computer age. FEED DATABASE CHARACTERISTICS A North American Feed Database that is flexible enough to address the needs of the livestock industry for the 21st century needs to be developed. A few years ago, the NRC published a book called “Building a North American Feed Information System,” which outlined the need for a national feed data base. I urge everyone to read the book and lobby for the re-establishment of a feed database.

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Scientific Advances in Animal Nutrition: Promise for the New Century, Proceedings of a Symposium A successful feed database must be user friendly, accessible, and accurate. In Canada, the protein content of canola meal has dramatically changed in a 10-year period because plant breeders are continuously improving plant genetics. So, the database must also be flexible enough to change as feedstuffs change. An estimate of nutrient variability is more important than actual values for various nutrients (see Table 9–1). Therefore, databases should contain an N-value and some sort of standard error associated with that value, so feed companies can build in a margin of safety. History of the sample, growing and processing conditions, and analytical techniques must also be included in the database. TABLE 9–1. Variations in the protein content of common feed ingredients. Feed Ingredient Mean (%) SD Range (%) Barley 11.5 0.91 10.1–13.3 Corn 9.3 0.51 8.2–10.0 Oats 10.4 0.93 9.2–11.6 Wheat 14.7 1.42 11.6–17.9 Soybean meal 46.5 0.49 45.1–47.5 Canola meal 35.4 0.67 34.7–36.4 Blood meal 92.9 1.61 90.4–94.5 Meat meal 50.1 2.18 43.7–59.8 Source: National Research Council series on Nutrient Requirements. The user should also be able to manipulate and select the parts of the database that they need. For example, the user should be able to determine what the lysine content for the 1998 corn crop was in their area. Feedstuffs change over time, so the database should allow the user to determine which forages have a certain protein content. BENEFITS OF A NORTH AMERICAN FEED DATABASE A computer based feeding system is estimated to cost between $1.5 and $2.0 million per year to operate and maintain (National Research Council, 1995). Producers are not currently in a good position to fund that kind of a database. The reality is that all society would benefit from a feed database; so, maybe the entire society should pay for it. If feed nutrient composition values are known, then animal production and the food supply will be cheaper. For example, daily gain, feed conversion, and preweaning mortality can all be improved by animal nutrition. One feed integrator estimates that for an 800-sow operation, if feed conversion is improved 0.1 of a unit, then $27,000 could be saved. If daily gain is improved 25 g/day, then $31,000 could be saved. And, if preweaning mortality rates are decreased from 11 to 10 percent, then $70,000 could be saved.

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Scientific Advances in Animal Nutrition: Promise for the New Century, Proceedings of a Symposium Producers use a margin of safety because they are not confident about the nutrient content of feedstuffs they use in diet formulation. Accurate information about nutrients used in feed will enable producers to accurately formulate diets to meet the animals requirements, which will reduce emissions from livestock operations. A feed database could also catalog anti-nutritional factors to avoid toxicity problems and ensure feed and food safety. The database could also improve national trade by providing accurate nutritional composition. CONCLUSIONS A dynamic, computerized feed database is needed because tables used in the past are static, are no longer accurate, and are not flexible enough for the feed industry of the 21st century. Computerized databases that change as feed changes and allow the user to manipulate variables will make animal production more efficient and provide consumers with a safer and cost-effective product. REFERENCES National Research Council. 1995. Building a North American Feed Information System. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.