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Improving the Application of Nutritional Science

The science of animal nutrition is advancing rapidly. In recent years investigators have made much progress in providing an understanding of animal metabolism, the roles of specific nutrients in normal physiological processes, and the nutritional value of feedstuffs. In addition, methods of analyzing feed and estimating the nutrient requirements and nutritional status of animals have improved.

“The right feeding of stock, then is not merely a matter of so much hay and grain and roots, but rather of so much water, starch, gluten, etc., of which they are composed” (Atwater, 1878). As knowledge of animal nutrition increases, the basic principles of economic animal feeding described by Atwater in 1878 remain the foundation for current animal nutrition management practices. Building on that foundation, incorporating improvements such as recent advances in manipulating the genetic potential of animals and plants requires continual adaptation and reevaluation of the ways that producers feed their animals. Endeavors directed toward expanding understanding of animal nutrition continue to progress because of changing demands on the types of animal products produced, considerations of the welfare of domestic and nondomestic species, emerging animal industries such as aquaculture, and concern for the environment in agricultural communities. Knowledge of animal nutrition continues to progress, with scientific breakthroughs defining integral concepts of nutritional science. Each discovery represents a step forward, but each discovery also places greater emphasis on understanding the fundamental interactions of specific nutritional elements and their utilization within the animal.



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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM 1 Improving the Application of Nutritional Science The science of animal nutrition is advancing rapidly. In recent years investigators have made much progress in providing an understanding of animal metabolism, the roles of specific nutrients in normal physiological processes, and the nutritional value of feedstuffs. In addition, methods of analyzing feed and estimating the nutrient requirements and nutritional status of animals have improved. “The right feeding of stock, then is not merely a matter of so much hay and grain and roots, but rather of so much water, starch, gluten, etc., of which they are composed” (Atwater, 1878). As knowledge of animal nutrition increases, the basic principles of economic animal feeding described by Atwater in 1878 remain the foundation for current animal nutrition management practices. Building on that foundation, incorporating improvements such as recent advances in manipulating the genetic potential of animals and plants requires continual adaptation and reevaluation of the ways that producers feed their animals. Endeavors directed toward expanding understanding of animal nutrition continue to progress because of changing demands on the types of animal products produced, considerations of the welfare of domestic and nondomestic species, emerging animal industries such as aquaculture, and concern for the environment in agricultural communities. Knowledge of animal nutrition continues to progress, with scientific breakthroughs defining integral concepts of nutritional science. Each discovery represents a step forward, but each discovery also places greater emphasis on understanding the fundamental interactions of specific nutritional elements and their utilization within the animal.

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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM NUTRITION'S VITAL ROLE The importance of the nutrient composition of feeds addressed more than a century ago continues to be recognized as a primary mechanism for optimizing animal health (Breeding et al., 1994; Elsasser, 1993). Awareness of nutrition in relation to disease states has led to the expansion of the role of nutrition research in addressing new dimensions in animal and human health (Sidransky, 1985). Reduced incidence of disease often can be attributed to the nutritional components of animal diets (Gerloff, 1992; Hogan et al., 1993; Weiss et al., 1990; Zagulski et al., 1989). Directly correlated with animal health, feed nutrients are known to affect animal performance (Guise and Penny, 1990; Mahan, 1991; Matte et al., 1994; Petit and Castonguay, 1994). Recently, refined nutrient management has been recognized as an important element of sustainable agriculture practices (Honeyman, 1993; Ouart et al., 1992; Pell, 1992; Stanogias and Pearce, 1987). Managing animal feeding practices with nutrient composition information has proved to be beneficial for addressing the environmental concerns associated with agricultural production (Tamminga, 1992; Tamminga and Verstegen, 1992; Tucker and Watts, 1993; Weismiller and Hogan, 1992). Legislation developed for decreasing environmental pollution from farming increases dependence on the availability of timely and accurate feed composition information (Weismiller and Hogan, 1992). Additionally, feed composition serves as a point of reference for the regulation of food and feed ingredients in domestic and international markets to ensure fair trade and unbiased scientific evaluation of food safety issues (Bogel and Stohr, 1994; Petersen, 1994). Educators and researchers develop programs that rely heavily on information regarding the nutrient composition of feeds. Internationally, the nutrient composition of feeds influences trade and marketing decisions in quality-sensitive sectors (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 1994b) and affects the education and welfare of populations in developing countries. Finally, feed manufacturers as well as animal producers and technical consultants on farms use feed composition information on a daily basis. URGENT NEED FOR INFORMATION Rapid advancements and significant improvements in the nutritional sciences, animal production practices, and environmental protection in the United States and abroad can be attributed in part to the use of a feed composition data base. Corresponding to the period of time that a feed composition data base was maintained in the United States, from 1963 to 1990, monumental strides were made in the nutritional sciences (Church and Pond, 1982; International Life Sciences Institute, 1990; Maynard et al., 1979), resulting in improved animal and human health as well as improved animal production practices. Farmers and

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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM animal producers also began to gather data and evaluate their practices to determine the cause-and-effect relationship that nutrient management has on the natural environment. The former feed composition data base contained information from published tables of feed composition, journal articles containing primary analyses of feeds, and unpublished laboratory analyses. Values not determined experimentally were computed, and estimates of biological information were also provided in the previous system. The analytical data contained in the original feed composition data base were used extensively in the development of recommendations for the nutrient requirements of animals (National Research Council, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978a,b,c, 1979, 1980, 1981a,b, 1982a, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988a,b). Information was disseminated in printed form in many National Research Council publications, numerous nutrition and animal science textbooks, and periodicals of agricultural science and extension. Individual inquiries and requests for specific feed nutrient data were also answered by the staff that maintained the data base at Utah State University from 1963 to 1985. The data base took on international importance in 1972 when the International Feedstuffs Institute was organized at Utah State University to participate in the International Network of Feed Information Centers (INFIC). After the data base was transferred from Utah State University to the National Agricultural Library in 1985, insufficient funding hindered the maintenance and updating of information. Data screening and validation were impaired as a result of budget constraints. Access to the data was also difficult because data base operations could not advance with the rapid improvements in telecommunications technology because of financial limitations. Reliable information on feeds is lacking at present. Numerous private and commercial data bases of feed composition exist; however, many (1) do not adequately identify feed samples, (2) do not include all information on all feeds, (3) do not provide analyses for all nutrients, or (4) are difficult to access for many users. For instance, although some state forage testing laboratories associated with the Dairy Herd Improvement Association's programs have detailed information on feedstuffs that is used extensively by dairy nutritionists, the information concerning sample identification is not comprehensive. Data are also limited with respect to the types of feeds, providing information on the nutritive values of feeds such as legumes and grass hays but not covering the realm of feeds used in animal production today. Perhaps the greatest disadvantage of maintaining information in many different data bases is that interpretation and comparison of data among data bases is arduous because of the lack of standardized methods of analyses and variations among sources. The need for information on feed composition has not diminished in recent years. An increased need for this information exists as a result of the recent significant advancements in nutrition and related sciences, changes in the agricultural industry and associated markets, and rising concern for the health and wel-

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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM fare of animals, humans, and the environment. With the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in place, the quality of grain will become increasingly important in the global grain market (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 1994b). Therefore, the Subcommittee on Criteria for a National Feed Composition Data Base proposes an improved North American feed information system. The new system would be dynamic and easily accessible to users (see Chapter 5). The quality of the data would be controlled, and a new classification system with additional information on the bioavailabilities of feeds would be included.