Many scientists in a variety of disciplines and professions would be the users of a North American feed information system. Those who rely most heavily on feed composition information include educators, producers and their consultants, feed manufacturers, researchers, and regulatory agency personnel. A common thread exists among the diverse groups of people that use and rely on feed composition information. That thread is education, whether it is formal schooling, professional training, or simply the transfer of information.
The proposed North American feed information will have a variety of uses, including education and research.
A major use of the feed information system is to educate students aspiring to enter the fields of animal science and animal nutrition as well as to educate the public. On a global level, the information that foreign students acquire while they are in the United States proves valuable once they return to their native countries. Only 1 percent of foreign students educated in the United States remain in the United States after graduation (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1994). Until now a national feed data base was viewed as a compilation of feed names and nutrient analyses. The North American feed information system not only would be a standard reference on chemical composition and bioavailabilities
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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM 3 Diverse Clientele of a North American Feed Information System Many scientists in a variety of disciplines and professions would be the users of a North American feed information system. Those who rely most heavily on feed composition information include educators, producers and their consultants, feed manufacturers, researchers, and regulatory agency personnel. A common thread exists among the diverse groups of people that use and rely on feed composition information. That thread is education, whether it is formal schooling, professional training, or simply the transfer of information. EDUCATORS AND RESEARCHERS The proposed North American feed information will have a variety of uses, including education and research. Education A major use of the feed information system is to educate students aspiring to enter the fields of animal science and animal nutrition as well as to educate the public. On a global level, the information that foreign students acquire while they are in the United States proves valuable once they return to their native countries. Only 1 percent of foreign students educated in the United States remain in the United States after graduation (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1994). Until now a national feed data base was viewed as a compilation of feed names and nutrient analyses. The North American feed information system not only would be a standard reference on chemical composition and bioavailabilities
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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM but also would characterize, describe, and enumerate specific ingredients and processes and the resultant coproducts on an ongoing basis. From an educational perspective the system will be used to teach the entire scheme of feed processing, including its economic implications and influence on the quality of the end product; demonstrate the variability in composition that exists within different ingredients; summarize and understand the techniques used to determine specific chemical and bioavailability measurements (for example, soluble protein, non-structural carbohydrate determination, and ruminal and intestinal digestibility); and illustrate the regional differences associated with grain and forage quality and type and how these differences influence potential nutrient concentration and availability to the animal. Research A feed composition data base system has significant implications for agricultural research as well. Researchers use the system to identify critical voids in current knowledge bases and identify future research directions. An important potential benefit is linking unique plant characteristics (for example, new cultivars) more closely to chemical composition, digestibility, and animal responses. This association will make it possible to develop more accurate equations to predict production performance in several animal species. In this way the data base can be linked to nutrient requirements or response factors for various species. LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS, EXTENSION SPECIALISTS, AND CONSULTANTS Livestock producers, extension specialists, and consultants will rely heavily on the data base for feed chemical composition and nutrient availability information for diet formulation. The capability to choose alternative equations to predict biological value will help to determine the ingredients that provide the most consistent results under unique conditions. These users must have accurate feed composition information to determine the substitutability of nutrients in various ingredients on the basis of price per unit of nutrient and the quantity and quality of the nutrient delivered. Descriptions of ingredients on the basis of a variety of characteristics (processing, source, region, year of harvest, and so forth) will be critical. The system also will be valuable for
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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM providing standards for comparison of the composition of purchased ingredients; quantifying the factors that cause variations in forage composition to identify the specific characteristics about forage quality that will allow, on the basis of previous history, producers to predict potential production responses to specific environmental factors such as rainfall, growing degree days, stage of maturity, and variety; and incorporating information into diet formulation programs and making purchasing decisions. (Ingredients are often purchased on the basis of average composition because purchase decisions often must be made, and the feed is often fed, before the feed can be analyzed.) FEED MANUFACTURERS Small-Volume Feed Manufacturers Small-volume feed manufacturers typically do not have the technology needed for feed analysis; however, they may be represented and supported by some types of technical service. Small-volume feed manufacturers have a distinct regional orientation, and they usually do not maintain a feed composition data base. A user-friendly data base that delineates ingredients and that can easily be used for data transfer is necessary. However, little chemical analysis will be contributed to the data base by the small-volume feed industry. Small-volume feed manufacturers would use the data base to determine nutrient quality, obtain information associated with new ingredient acquisition and the substitutability of ingredients that are nutritionally similar, determine nutrient bioavailability, determine feed quality standards and formulate quality control minimums, and determine improvements in feed efficiency, thus reducing environmental pollution and production costs and improving competitiveness. Large-Volume Feed Manufacturers and Technical Service Organizations Large-volume feed manufacturers (annual production in excess of 91,000 metric tons) and technical service organizations employ a professional staff and have in-house analytical capabilities. However, they would be major users of the feed composition information system's bioavailability data and prediction equations as well as analytical information on feeds not used in feed manufacturing (for example, forages). They usually have a broad geographical distribution and
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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM have access to most of the ingredients used to manufacture feeds. Ingredient deliveries are at multiple locations, and it may be necessary for these manufacturers to analyze each lot of ingredients that they purchase. This requires the availability of rapid, accurate methods for determining the nutrient composition of commonly purchased feedstuffs. Acceptance or rejection of ingredients is based on the quantities and qualities of the nutrients within analytical limits for a given ingredient. Most often, the nutrients analyzed include crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, and specific minerals. However, consultants and advisers to large-volume feed manufacturers routinely formulate diets for producers, and they rely heavily on feed composition tables and bioavailability equations for describing in nutritional terms the ingredients grown or fed on a particular farm. Coproduct ingredients, which result from the manufacture of human food from grains, are increasingly being used in feed manufacturing. Accurate information from the feed information data base on the substitutability of these types of ingredients for more traditional ingredients will be extremely beneficial to large-volume feed manufacturers. In addition to chemical composition, they will find information on nutrient variation, bulk density, and potential contaminants to be extremely useful. Large-volume feed manufacturers often maintain their own data bases of nutrient analyses. They may be somewhat reluctant to contribute nutrient values to a national feed data base in view of confidentiality issues. However, a major factor limiting their interest in a North American data base is that the former national data base is incomplete, inaccurate, and out of date. The criteria for the usefulness of a national feed data base to large-volume feed manufacturers and the technical service industry would include flexibility, transferability, confidentiality, cost-effectiveness, established guidelines, index and reference values for bioavailabilities, applicability as a training tool, and comprehensiveness. To provide flexibility, the feed information system must have the ability to describe feed ingredients on the basis of source, process, location, and region, among other factors. The data base must be developed such that individual manufacturers can easily develop subsets of specific nutrients for a given ingredient and have the ability to construct any number of comparative dietary scenarios. To provide for the transferability of data, the system must allow for the convenient transfer of data into the manufacturer's data base, but feed manufacturers should not be required to make substantial efforts to submit their own data to the system. Feed manufacturers will be more likely to contribute ingredient information if their data are kept confidential by submitting them through a third party or a trade organization and withholding the original contributor 's name. This concern originates in part from the potential for liability. To be cost effective, the data base must present an opportunity to provide added value or a cost benefit. A North American data base would provide guidelines for normal variations
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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM in nutrient composition among ingredients in manufactured feeds. It also could provide a historical perspective on newly acquired ingredients to characterize substitutability for other ingredients. The data base also must include reference values for bioavailabilities. Although bioavailability data would not likely be provided by feed manufacturers, incorporation of digestibility values and absorption coefficients into the data base could provide a reference in addition to privately developed values. The data base would play a unique role in training technical service personnel to identify the variations in ingredients associated with feed manufacturing. This would allow the customer, and the ultimate consumer, to be more aware and knowledgeable of why manufactured feed specifications have the potential for variation. The comprehensiveness and currentness of the data base would be achieved by incorporating the most recent information into the data base on a periodic basis.