Calves are born with an immature gastrointestinal system that gradually develops over the first few months of their life. During this pre-ruminant phase much of the calf’s diet is made up of milk replacers, which are formulated to supply all the essential nutrients needed for healthy growth and development without overpowering its delicate gut.
A key component of calf milk replacers (CMR) is protein, which provides the essential amino acids needed for growth, promotes muscle development, and aids with the calf's digestion and absorption of other nutrients. The most common ingredient in CMR production has been protein derived from whole milk (which is principally made up of casein, but also includes whey proteins). But because of the high cost of these milk proteins due to their increased demand in human nutrition, the need for alternative CMR protein sources that can do some of the heavy lifting has been growing.
APC, as the global leader in functional proteins manufacturing, wants CMR producers to seriously consider its PEPTEIVA®, a hydrolyzed functional protein, to partly replace milk proteins and is making its case in a recently published e-book. In this Industry Perspectives, the company’s R&D Project Manager for Europe, Carmen Rodríguez takes Feedinfo through some of the key points in the e-book and explains the health benefits of using hydrolyzed functional proteins in calf nutrition.
[Feedinfo] Is the use of hydrolyzed functional proteins in milk replacers still an uncommon practice? Why did APC feel the need to create an e-book on this topic?
[Carmen Rodríguez] Functional animal proteins have been widely used in pre-weaned calf diets in the United States for decades, with more than 50% of calf milk replacers containing these beneficial ingredients. The situation has been different in Europe where, until recently, regulations and restrictions were in place for using animal proteins in the cattle industry, except for milk and milk-based products.
The regulations have been updated and the use of hydrolyzed proteins of non-ruminant origin are now allowed for all animal diets, including ruminant feed. This means producers can now include hydrolyzed non-ruminant functional proteins as alternative sources of high value protein.
Our mission is to help animals thrive by developing new and innovative ingredients that can enhance feed utilization efficiency to positively impact animal health and production. As the world’s premier manufacturer of functional proteins, we have recently developed a porcine hydrolyzed protein, PEPTEIVA®, which is recognized and listed by the German Agricultural Society (DLG). We have also produced an e-book highlighting the benefits of hydrolyzed functional proteins in calf nutrition.
[Feedinfo] Let’s focus on that a bit more. What are the advantages of using hydrolyzed functional proteins over milk proteins in calf nutrition? What are the benefits for producers?
[Carmen Rodríguez] Young calves are very sensitive to pathological and digestive stress pressures. Usually, undigested feed mass accumulation in the hind gut of the calf, together with the presence of E. coli and other pathological pressures, can lead to slower growth, diarrhea, and higher mortality. This can also result in them needing greater amounts of medication. A proper nutrition strategy is key to improving digestion and ensuring the absorption of dietary ingredients in the small intestine.
Calves, similar to monogastric animals, are fed expensive dairy ingredients, like skim-milk powder, whey protein concentrates or colostrum. Our findings show that porcine hydrolyzed functional proteins can efficiently replace part of these milk-based products.
Many studies in calves have demonstrated that hydrolyzed functional proteins are a source of high-quality digestible protein, providing consistent digestive performance while providing performance and health benefits. In these studies we observed a positive replacement value during the weaning phase, with no need to reformulate the amino acid balance, with the inclusion of just 5% of hydrolyzed functional proteins. So, it is a good opportunity for producers to use a more effective source of functional proteins to replace expensive milk proteins without affecting the general performance and health of the calf during this critical period of its life.
[Feedinfo] Are there any differences in the effects of functional proteins vs. hydrolyzed functional proteins on health and performance?
[Carmen Rodríguez] Functional proteins are widely used in many species, including swine, poultry, ruminant, aquaculture, and companion animals. They provide excellent nutrition, support normal immune function, and promote a better start by reducing the medication needed while promoting healthier gut development.
What we have learnt after many years of research is that the inclusion of functional proteins in animal diets positively impacts both the barrier function and the intestinal immune response of the intestinal mucosa. These effects are especially important in young animals with immature digestive systems. In addition, as all the mucosa of the body are connected by the same mucosal immune system, these benefits have not only been observed locally but also in other mucosa in the body, like in the respiratory and the reproductive systems. In general, functional proteins help the immune system to respond to challenges quickly and efficiently, reduce inflammation and save energy that can then be put towards growth and development.
The breaking down of dietary proteins into small peptides might vary substantially depending on the physiological state of the animal. So, a very clever way of ensuring that animals can fully benefit from these functional proteins is to hydrolyze them prior to administration. The hydrolysis of functional proteins through enzymes generates a natural source of bioactive peptides that can then be made available to the animal without additional digestion needed on their part.
[Feedinfo] So now let’s look at these bioactive peptides. Why are they so important for young calf nutrition?
[Carmen Rodríguez] Peptides are formed through the union of two or more short-chain amino acids by peptide bonds, which can only be generated by the processing of protein. Understanding their usefulness in young calf nutrition is of utmost importance if we want to add value to the functioning of CMR formulations.
The biological activity of peptides allows for an interesting possibility to boost CMR nutritional value, because they improve the function of the entire digestive system and do not pose a risk of congestion or collapse. Small peptides are more stable than long-chain molecules and are very digestible. Therefore, they can quickly enter the bloodstream and cells to do their nutritional task. They are able to be absorbed and utilized directly by the animal's intestine and can help calves more readily receive the benefits of the feeding. That means that they can grow and gain weight more quickly. This increased availability of bioactive peptides in hydrolyzed functional proteins gives them a nutritional advantage in relation to other types of CMR ingredients.
[Feedinfo] Talk us through why PEPTEIVA® should be the hydrolyzed protein of choice for producers in pre-weaned calf nutrition?
[Carmen Rodríguez] PEPTEIVA® is a highly soluble and very digestible ingredient because of the enzymatic hydrolysis used to produce it. The hydrolysis happens under very strict and controlled processing conditions using the optimal temperature and protease pH. This kind of hydrolysis assures that functional peptides are active and biologically available for the animal. We have been able to identify 90 different peptides in PEPTEIVA® that help the undeveloped digestion of calves to be more effective.
PEPTEIVA® also does not change the color, the taste, or the smell of the final product and is an ideal ingredient for calf milk replacers due to its biological functionality.
[Feedinfo] You are also recommending PEPTEIVA® for other species. What evidence can you share with us its impact on growth and development?
[Carmen Rodríguez] PEPTEIVA® is an ingredient that can be beneficial for all species, particularly in young farm animals with underdeveloped gastric systems that require high quality nutritional strategies to help them to develop.
Porcine functional proteins are a highly recognized ingredient in piglet feeds with proven benefits on performance and health status. And because weaning is an extremely traumatic period filled with plenty of changes and challenges for the piglet’s underdeveloped digestive system, the use of the bioactive peptides resulting from enzymatic hydrolysis, like those in PEPTEIVA®, have been shown to increase the nutritional quality of the feed.
Piglets fed PEPTEIVA® showed higher feed intake, better growth, improved feed conversion, higher number of piglets weaned, and improved survival compared with control diets without porcine functional proteins. In our latest study in cooperation with the University of Illinois, PEPTEIVA® was included at 2.8 and 5.6% in the diet replacing soy protein concentrate during the first 14 days post-weaning. At day 42, the piglets fed PEPTEIVA® showed 0.53 and 1.15 kg more body weight respectively than the control group; similar to regular spray-dried plasma, a very impressive result. We have even conducted trials in aquaculture and found that with sea bream functional peptides improved the welfare biomarkers, the antibacterial properties of the skin mucus and the growth of the animal.
[Feedinfo] Any other exciting developments in functional proteins at APC that we should be looking out for? What does the rest of the year hold for APC?
[Carmen Rodríguez] Well, APC has recently opened new facilities in our European Headquarters in Barcelona (Spain), that include a laboratory (R&D and Quality) and an Applications Pilot Plant to power developments for companion animals. This important base of research and innovation will help us to discover new and exciting uses for functional proteins and, of course, support the production of different bioactive peptides through hydrolysis, like PEPTEIVA®.
In addition, these new facilities will expand our capabilities and insights by bringing customers and our own protein specialists together to help us bring the best solutions to market.
We have earned a reputation as the market leader in functional protein research and manufacturing for animal nutrition and health. That is why we continue to invest in new manufacturing platforms so that we can further drive product and manufacturing innovation and do so in a more cost-efficient and sustainable way.
Published in association with APC