5

Making the Concept a Reality

Bringing the concept of a functional, comprehensive North American feed information system to fruition requires planning, direction, and support. Ascertaining the critical elements and recognizing the ultimate goals are two primary steps in beginning the process of development. Another important step is to recognize successful components of similar systems and to apply and expand on those ideas.

KEY PLAYERS

A discussion of the potential clientele of a North American feed information system (Chapter 3) leads to the identification of the federal and private sectors that would be central to its operation. Industries such as feed manufacturing and livestock production would have an interest in the system. This includes those industries in the United States as well as in Canada and Mexico. Feed suppliers, refiners, and producers and commercial laboratories rely on feed information. The teaching and research segments of universities, the cooperative extension service, and private animal nutritionists generate and use feed nutrient data. The federal sector of U.S. agriculture, including the FDA; EPA; and the Agricultural Research Service, the Economic Research Service, and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service of USDA also would be users of a functioning feed information system. In light of the potential value of a feed information system to government agencies, the federal government should assume responsibility for the operation and management of this system, including the collection and compilation of data, the generation of data for which existing



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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM 5 Making the Concept a Reality Bringing the concept of a functional, comprehensive North American feed information system to fruition requires planning, direction, and support. Ascertaining the critical elements and recognizing the ultimate goals are two primary steps in beginning the process of development. Another important step is to recognize successful components of similar systems and to apply and expand on those ideas. KEY PLAYERS A discussion of the potential clientele of a North American feed information system (Chapter 3) leads to the identification of the federal and private sectors that would be central to its operation. Industries such as feed manufacturing and livestock production would have an interest in the system. This includes those industries in the United States as well as in Canada and Mexico. Feed suppliers, refiners, and producers and commercial laboratories rely on feed information. The teaching and research segments of universities, the cooperative extension service, and private animal nutritionists generate and use feed nutrient data. The federal sector of U.S. agriculture, including the FDA; EPA; and the Agricultural Research Service, the Economic Research Service, and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service of USDA also would be users of a functioning feed information system. In light of the potential value of a feed information system to government agencies, the federal government should assume responsibility for the operation and management of this system, including the collection and compilation of data, the generation of data for which existing

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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM sources are inadequate, validation of the quality of the data, and information dissemination to researchers, the livestock industry, the feed grain and oilseed industry, and other federal and multilateral government regulatory and oversight agencies. A North American feed information system should be maintained within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Data acquisition and verification could take place within a section of USDA that deals with agricultural research. Data entry, management, and dissemination could take place in a section appropriately staffed and equipped to handle those activities. The data base should have a national perspective and will be most successful and best recognized if it is housed permanently within USDA. Organizational Relationships An advisory group representing the users of a North American feed information system should be established. Representation of users within the system is important and can be ensured with the formation of a formal advisory group. In addition to professional program staff, assurance of the quality of the data base can be attained with an advisory group composed of representatives from the relevant user factions. Steering committees and general management of similar data bases (GRIN and NDL, for example) are given the task of ensuring the quality and smooth operation of those systems. The responsibilities of an advisory group for a North American feed information system would be similar. The primary responsibilities of an advisory group would be to recommend the criteria that should be used to confirm the accuracy and validity of information, facilitate the accessibility of data, ensure regional representation, and provide scientific expertise. A strong relationship with industry and academia that ensures that representative sample information is acquired from throughout North America should be developed. Partnership with industry can be accomplished at least in part through the wise use of the advisory group. The advisory group must have viable contacts throughout North America with industry and the land-grant university system. This can be facilitated by subsidizing or contracting for data acquisition services at public institutions and laboratories located throughout North America. A broad representation of sample information could be accomplished by working closely with industry and land-grant institutions. The data base system should be adequately staffed to ensure appropriate data handling and rapid information dissemination.

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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM Staffing should reflect the need for data verification and acquisition and for data entry management and output. The overall organization should be staffed so that it includes individuals with in-depth knowledge and skills relative to all factors that affect the composition of feeds as well as individuals with expertise in computer technology and data base management. Daily data base system operations would essentially be in two distinct areas. The first, data verification and acquisition, requires scientific expertise. Staff working in this section should be educated and experienced in the biological sciences, including animal nutrition, animal agriculture, agronomic practices, and plant science. Ideally, staff knowledgeable about both ruminant and nonruminant nutrition would be employed. The second area of data base operations involves data entry, management, and output. Proficiency in telecommunications, data analysis, and electronic operations would be required of a technical data base staff. Managers within each of these sections would be responsible for preparing operating instructions, managing finances, maintaining contacts with the advisory group, setting priorities for data acquisition and analyses, developing standard methods of analyses, and ensuring that proper liaisons between staff in the two groups mentioned above are developed. The dissemination of information would be an important component of the system, and staffing should be adequate to handle both domestic and international requests. QUALITY DATA The official methods of feed analysis of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) are recommended for routine analyses of the nutrient composition of feeds. The usefulness of the feed information system will depend primarily on the accuracy and completeness of the chemical composition data that it contains. Therefore, a system for uniformly describing feeds needs to be developed, as should strict guidelines for the laboratory procedures that should be used to determine the nutrient composition of feeds and a system for quality control and standardization across the laboratories that submit data. A long-standing foundation for acceptable analytical standards exists in the AOAC official methods of analyses. Methods encompass agricultural feeds, chemicals, contaminants, and additives and quality assurance and statistical principles. These methods are continually updated and are recognized throughout the world (Association of Official and Analytical Chemists International, 1995). Use of AOAC-approved analytical procedures increases the potential for international cooperation with other data bases. In addition, the data should be contained in two portions of the data base: one containing statistical descriptions of chemically measurable composition and the second containing bioavailabilities in animals.

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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM Classification Feed ingredients should be classified by ingredient type and source. Many different kinds of feed ingredients are used to manufacture animal feeds. To accurately monitor such an extensive amount of detailed information, a numbering system must be devised to distinguish each feed entry. The INFIC system, which incorporates the international feed number (IFN) along with the official names and definitions used by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), would be a logical starting point. This numbering system has been accepted by feed industries throughout the world and would assist in the international marketing of these ingredients. Feeds and feed ingredients are identified (named, described, and numbered according to the origin of the product and the specific portion of the plant [for example, seed, and hulls], processing method, and maturity). Identification of feeds by this type of system would alleviate confusion and would cut down on the paperwork involved in tracking feeds between countries. Identification of feeds will be greatly facilitated with the development of a bar code system corresponding to international feed numbers, which is under way. When grain or plant product data are to be reported for incorporation into the data base, the information should include, at a minimum, the year of harvest; location of origin or submitter by zip or postal code; test weight and density; processing and preservation process; and stage of maturity; and cutting. In addition, optional information that would add to the completeness of the data on grains or plant products would include cultivar, storage conditions, soil fertility, soil type, altitude (in the case of forages), stress conditions during growth, physical measurements (such as particle size), and any notable condition about the feed, such as mycotoxin contamination. Two items about this feed classification are worth noting: (1) cultivar information will become even more important in the future as a result of ongoing efforts in the genetic engineering of plants, and (2) new systems have been developed to assess the stage of growth of forages. In the proposed feed information system, reliable data from the previous system should be maintained along with any information available by using the new systems. Chemical and Analytical Aspects of Feedstuff Analysis All chemically measurable components that have biological meaning should be included in the chemical description of each feed. Included are measures of carbohydrates (sugars, starch, total cell wall, cell wall components, and unavailable cell wall), total nitrogen and amino acids, lipids, acid detergent-insoluble nitrogen (ADIN), vitamins, and minerals. When chemical data are submitted for inclusion into the data base, the following must

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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM be included: feed classification, ingredient name, previously described characteristics, nutrients assayed, date of analysis, method of analysis including references, and the means of quality control used in the laboratory. The value from a minimum of one analysis for a nutrient would be acceptable if this were the only value available. It is important that the method of analysis be identified, and data must be distinguishable by the chemical method by which they were obtained. A code list for methods similar to that used in the AAFCO Check Sample Program should be developed. Identification of different methods for the same analysis and unique identifiers for each method are used in the AAFCO Check Sample Program. Some measure of acceptability of the data must exist before they can be included in the data base. Ensuring that the data have been produced under adequate quality control measures can be done in several ways. Unknown samples can be supplied to contributing laboratories, which would analyze the samples for the nutrient data to be included in the data base. Another option would be to share with the advisory group the quality control plan and any available check sample participation related to the reported nutrients. When data are presented for incorporation into the data base, it must be clear whether the data are from a single or multiple analyses. Sample averages, as opposed to analytical (that is, duplicate and triplicate) averages, should not be accepted, and multiple results from the same sample would be unnecessary. The method by which these types of data are incorporated into the data base becomes a difficult decision. Criteria will be established to determine when to exclude data. This could be a function of an advisory group. The data should be presented uniformly in acceptable units. All data should be reported on a dry matter basis only. Regional representation of the data is important. Identification of region can be accomplished using the zip or postal code system. Finally, the data should be evaluated by some simple statistical analysis. This should include an overall average, standard deviation, range, and number of data entries. Any other statistical evaluation should be done by the users. Biological Characterization of Feedstuffs Information on the bioavailabilities of the nutrients in feedstuffs should be included as a standard component of the data base. Chemically measurable values are used to predict the bioavailabilities of nutrients in different species. In ruminants, for example, fiber and protein analyses are used to predict energy availability; crude protein concentration and degradability are used to estimate ruminally undegraded protein; amino acid concentrations are adjusted for intestinal digestibility; and mineral concentrations are corrected for bioavailability. A chemical composition data base may provide a

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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM general indication of the nutritive value of a feed and a measure of the dynamic nature of a feed's composition over time or by geographical region, but a bioavailability data base also is needed to formulate diets in which the emphasis is on reducing the excess use of nutrients while optimizing animal performance. Many of the data characterizing feedstuffs from the biological perspective can be found in the referenced literature. When biological measurements are taken, these data are usually coupled with relatively detailed compositional analyses of the test feeds. In the proposed national feed information system, biological data must be reported in association with the chemical composition of the feeds used in the same experiment. This will confer more validity on the reported biological measurements. Many more chemical composition data, as opposed to biological data, will be available for most feeds. The chemical composition information will be reported, and the system must allow for the reporting of the biological data for the feed. With regard to biological data, no calculated data that have not been collected in a quantitative fashion should be included in the feed information system. Equations used to calculate biological responses, however, should be a part of the data base and should be available to users. A measured biological response to dietary ingredients generally is dictated by the nature of the feedstuff. At the whole-animal level, animal performance (weight gain, feed efficiency, milk production) can be measured. In addition, accretions of body protein, lipids, and mineral matter have been measured in many experiments. Secretion of milk constituents (protein, lipids, lactose) from various species is measured frequently as well. The energy value of feedstuffs is of major importance to, for example, animal producers, feed manufacturers, and research scientists. Perhaps the most common index of energy value is the total digestible nutrient content of feedstuffs. This is often an estimated value, however, and is not accurate. Better measures of feedstuff energy value include digestible energy, metabolizable energy, which may or may not be corrected for gaseous energy losses (and nitrogen losses in the case of poultry), and net energy for maintenance, gain, and lactation. Because of the cost, time, and experimental complexity associated with net energy measurements, few determined values of net energy exist. All of these measures have been taken under controlled conditions and provide useful information regarding the energy value of a feedstuff. In the case of fats and oils, apparent digestibility values are useful. Finally, an easily understood unit of measure is necessary to make energy data useful. The information could be expressed on a metabolizable energy basis. A number of measurements provide information about the protein value of feedstuffs. These include relatively simple measures such as protein solubility (in water, salt solutions, alcohol, or dilute alkali), and ADIN concentration as a measure of heat damage and protein availability. More complicated assays include those that estimate protein degradability (or undegradability), such as in

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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM vitro assay with enzymes, assays that estimate bioavailabilities of amino acids, in situ assays that assess the rate and extent of protein disappearance from the rumen, assays that use mobile nylon bags to assess the disappearance of protein from the lower gut, assays that provide ileal digestibility estimates, and cecectomies in the case of poultry. Some of the techniques mentioned above are important for assessing the nutritive value of forage. These include techniques that measure the ADIN concentration and in situ and mobile nylon bag techniques. In addition, in vitro disappearance assays and measurements of fiber concentrations (total dietary fiber, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber) in forages are useful for predicting certain biological responses (for example, feed intake and digestibility) of ruminants. Information used to calculate ruminal fill units and intake potential (for example, particle size distribution) should be included in the data base if it is available. To determine the nutritive values of coproducts of feeds and crop residues, the methodologies outlined above for determining the nutritive values of protein feedstuffs and forages are applicable. In the case of mineral and vitamin supplements, the concentration of the specific nutrient should be reported in a data base. Bioavailability estimates can be variable, depending on the species tested and the reference compounds that are used. This variability occurs primarily because various animal species are used for bioavailability testing and different compounds or complexes are used as standards of comparison. Finally, certain data must be included in a data base because they are essential for predicting biological responses. Such data include those on (1) total cell wall, both available and unavailable for fermentation; (2) a measure of nonfibrous carbohydrates (for example, starch); (3) the nitrogen that is unavailable to the animal; (4) crude protein, protein solubility, and nonprotein nitrogen; (5) the ash content of the feed; (6) the lipid content of the feed; and (7) the amino acid content of the feed. Sources of Data Data should be obtained from sources within North America and other countries. These sources should primarily include the scientific literature, commercial laboratories, and the feed industry. With regard to data obtained from other countries, chemical data will be used like any chemical and biological data obtained from Canada and Mexico. Data generated by commercial laboratories and industry would be very useful, but companies that spend large sums of money each year for chemical analyses of feedstuffs may be reluctant to share all of their information. Creating a partnership by subsidizing or contracting for feed analyses would encourage participation by commercial laboratories and the feed industry. A similar relationship has been formed between USDA's National Nutrient Data Bank and the human food

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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM product industry. In addition, the scientific literature is an excellent source of information on the chemical and biological properties of feedstuffs. The proposed data base should include the most accurate data available from the literature. Data generated by near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy would be included in the data base, but they should be identified as such. The managers of the data base should go beyond passively collecting compositional data supplied by industry and service laboratories and gathering data from the scientific literature and should actively participate in the identification of data needs, create standards of data acceptability, and establish mechanisms to ensure the accuracy of the data included in the data base. Data base managers should be involved in determining acceptable laboratory and sampling procedures and in actively collecting compositional and bioavailability data not readily available from other sources. This will require an in-house laboratory capability as well as the development of contracts with commercial or public laboratories. Methods will need to be developed to ensure quality control so that the data generated in-house and through contracts are accurate and reliable. Contracts should be awarded through a competitive bidding process, and consideration should be given to proposals that are jointly funded through a collaboration between industry and feed composition data base system. The former data base should not be discarded, even though there are limitations to its content and use. An advisory group should review the data to determine which data are acceptable. For example, mineral values obtained before 1960 are not very accurate, but Kjeldahl nitrogen values dating from the 1920s would likely be acceptable. Priority should be given to screening that data base to identify useful and acceptable data. Those data should be edited, and the “note” field from that data base that provides valuable agronomic information and growth conditions for samples should be translated into computer codes for inclusion into the new data base. This will give immediate value to the data base system and will allow it to move into a useful position more quickly. A FINANCIAL INVESTMENT By way of example, data bases have proven to be long-term financial investments that produce substantial international and domestic returns. Two phases are involved in the development of a data base: the initial implementation phase and the operational phase. During the initial implementation stage, major support from relevant agencies and organizations is critical. However, permanent core funding for the data base is a top priority to guarantee the successful activation of the newly revised system. Initially, a critical need will be to determine those portions of the old data base that can be incorporated into the new data base. In addition, start-up funds will be needed to obtain data in-house and from contract

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BUILDING A NORTH AMERICAN FEED INFORMATION SYSTEM laboratories. UDSA data base systems operate on budgets from approximately $1.2 million to $1.4 million, but they face constraints in the acquisition of data, the acquisition and maintenance of labor forces, and maintenance of the systems (see Chapter 4). Inflation of the costs associated with the continual generation of information with advanced electronic communications is not reflected in the budgets of existing USDA systems. A budget adequate to account for the routine costs incurred by similar data bases already in operation, costs associated with inflation, and costs of timely and efficient information gathering and dissemination is recommended. Two data bases (USDA's National Nutrient Data Bank and the Germplasm Resources Information Network) function in capacities similar to that proposed for a North American feed information system on annual budgets of $1.4 million and $1.2 million, respectively (see Chapter 4). On the basis of the operational constraints experienced by those data bases and given that continual updates would be required, it would not be unreasonable to project that a North American feed information system's annual budget could be in excess of $1.4 million. A financial investment on the order of $2 million for a North American feed information system would represent an increase in the utility of the data collected previously by consolidating and making them accessible to a wider and larger audience. In addition, a yearly budget of this amount would allow for the acquisition of substantially more updated information. Consideration must also be given to the significant impact that the data base will have on the economy. During the first few years, more of the funding for data verification and acquisition should be used for contracts to obtain the most important feed information. As the staffing needs increase and this information is accumulated, the proportion of funding should be shifted from contracting to maintenance and analysis of the information in the data base. However, there will always be a need for in-house data acquisition and contracting as investigators make new advances in breeding and genetic engineering of plants and animals. As more basic nutritional information accumulates, more effort should be expended to obtain information about mycotoxins, pesticides, and other contaminants in feeds. Although feed composition data bases have been maintained in the past, none have borne the significant impact that a newly developed North American feed information system could demonstrate. The anticipated scope and variety of end users would make this system valuable to a large part of the world's population. In addition, judicious use of feed composition information has the potential to greatly enhance the health and productivity of agricultural animals, strengthen the U.S. position in the economic market both domestically and internationally, and perhaps most notably, improve the quality of the environment.