4 October 2022 – Reducing the therapeutic use of zinc oxide and antibiotics. Ever increasing raw material costs. These are just some of the concerns that nutritionists are now having to navigate as they look to ensure piglet health and performance during the crucial post-weaning phase.
This, understandably, has impacted the way that they are approaching piglet feeding, with their diets now needing to address a whole host of challenges. For example, according to young animal nutrition specialist, Hamlet Protein, some nutritionists tasked with reducing reliance on zinc oxide (ZnO) are lowering crude protein levels in the hopes that this will help reduce incidence of diarrhoea in their piglets. But this could be doing more harm than good.
In today’s Industry Perspectives, the company’s Global Category Manager for Swine, Dr. Jessika van Leeuwen and Regional Sales Director for EMEA/BRSA, Jan Kamphof talk to Feedinfo about what some of Hamlet Protein’s customers’ main piglet nutrition concerns are and how these are impacting diet formulations. They also take us through how the company’s new piglet feeding concept, which combines its HP300 digestible protein and HP FiberBoost specialty fibre, can help pig producers navigate some of these challenges, in particular feeding piglets in a post ZnO world.
[Feedinfo] In your conversations with customers, what are some of the key concerns that you are picking up when it comes to piglet nutrition?
[Jan Kamphof] The main concern in piglet nutrition right now is the high cost of feed raw materials. Although pork prices have improved in the last few months in most parts of Europe, we see these raw material costs eating into our customers’ profitability and liquidity across the continent. In addition, among feed millers, reduced volumes (due to reduced animal numbers) have increased competitive pressure.
Also on their list of concerns right now is the challenge to maintain performance while eliminating the use of pharmaceutical ZnO.
[Feedinfo] How have these concerns informed diet formulations? What are some of the trends that you have noticed in the way that we are feeding piglets?
[Jan Kamphof] Lower profitability has put even more pressure on nutritionists to lower ingredient costs. Specifically in the field of protein ingredients, this sometimes leads to using less digestible, antinutritional factor (ANF)-rich proteins, resulting in higher feed conversion ratios. This is obviously very undesirable during these times of high feed costs.
[Jessika van Leeuwen] Looking at feed additives, the sky used to be the limit in the past when it came to their inclusion in diets. But now we are seeing a clear trend towards clean diets, a concept that Hamlet Protein has been promoting for a number of years now. This concept consists of using good quality macro ingredients to avoid causing inflammatory or sanitary responses in the digestive tract, thus reducing the reliance on feed additives to compensate for dietary flaws. One of these ‘compensators’ was, of course, ZnO, which controlled the gut environment even in the presence of pathogens or inflammatory agents. But now that we have to formulate without it, nutritionists are reducing the crude protein (CP) levels of diets to avoid excess protein being fermented in the hind gut, which can result in post weaning diarrhoea.
[Jan Kamphof] While crude protein content is decreasing, the use of synthetic amino acids is increasing and interest in highly digestible and absorbable proteins is growing. It is our expectation that protein kinetics will become increasingly important and relevant as time goes on.
[Feedinfo] It seems like nutritionists have good reason for reducing dietary protein in nursery diets. So, what is the problem with this concept when it can help lower the risk of gut disorders?
Dr. Jessika van Leeuwen
[Jessika van Leeuwen] Piglets grow at a very rapid speed and have higher protein requirements than other animals. We know from our own research that reducing CP levels to between 19-16% can cost the producer around EUR 2.50 per piglet. This is caused by a drop in growth performance but also a strong negative effect on the feed conversion ratio (FCR). When you drop your CP levels, some of the essential amino acids fall dangerously close to the requirement limit, so if anything happens to the animal that requires more protein, they become limiting. Once one amino acid becomes limiting, protein efficiency goes down. So, instead of being used for protein building, the amino acids are used as an energy source. Or they are not used at all, which explains why the amount of nitrogen excreted per kg of meat produced actually goes up at suboptimal protein efficiency levels. As a rule of thumb, we can say that 5% less of a limiting amino acid will result in 15 grams less growth per pig per day.
[Feedinfo] What is a better approach here, in Hamlet Protein’s view? What exactly does a robust protein strategy look like for piglet diets? What should nutritionists consider when developing theirs?
[Jessika van Leeuwen] A better approach is to look critically at the protein sources that are being used in nursery diets and keep good quality protein sources in the diet to be able to reach a normal CP level. Often the good quality protein sources are the first to be removed, but even though this reduces the cost of the diet, it does not reduce the production feed costs. Our research shows that it is possible to maintain high protein levels of 19% when using our HP300 digestible protein as one of the protein sources in combination with a specialty fibre source that contains both soluble and insoluble fibres, like our HP FiberBoost.
[Feedinfo] So let’s zoom in a little on this feeding concept which involves HP300 and FiberBoost? What is the research powering it?
[Jessika van Leeuwen] The Hamlet Protein feeding concept is built on the fact that good quality protein is the base of every good nursery diet. Piglets have very limited capacity to digest protein well in the first weeks after weaning, and therefore need protein sources that are very low in ANF’s and highly digestible.
The addition of a specialty fibre improves overall gut health of nursery piglets, which then can better use the high protein levels with less risk of protein fermentation. This can result in more resilient and uniform animals.
[Feedinfo] Looking specifically at post-weaning diarrhoea in piglets, which ZnO was very effective at preventing, how does your feeding strategy compare? What findings can you share with us?
[Jessika van Leeuwen] Under normal conditions the Hamlet Protein piglet feeding concept allows for equal performance even under mildly challenged conditions. The feedback we received from the farmers that tested HP Fiberboost is that lower incidences of intestinal disorders were observed with its use, resulting in more consistency and, therefore, increased uniformity among animals.
[Feedinfo] What works on one farm does not necessarily translate exactly to another farm. What has Hamlet Protein put in place to ensure this feeding concept can be successfully applied to operations across the globe?
[Jessika van Leeuwen] The concept is currently being used in EMEA and will hopefully be rolled out in other regions soon. It is not a magical problem solver but a more holistic approach to the way we feed our animals. That means starting with a clean diet, which we would say consists of maximum two to three highly digestible protein sources that are low in ANF’s and minimal use of indispensable feed additives. This will leave room in the diet for other specific ingredients, like feed additives with antimicrobial properties, that could help address future health and performance challenges.
Published in association with Hamlet Protein