03 August 2021- The idea of formulating rations not based simply around crude protein levels, but rather around meeting the animal’s needs for specific amino acids, has been around for a while. The premise is attractive, as it promises a more targeted supply of nutrients, theoretically leading to greater performance and lower waste. However, it has been slower to catch on in cattle, where the complex microbial environment is a critical part of meeting the animal’s protein needs.
Evonik is one enthusiastic champion of the use of rumen-protected methionine in particular. In the company’s view, the increasing demands for sustainability throughout the supply chain provide a unique opportunity for the increased nitrogen efficiency provided by amino acid supplementation. Moreover, Evonik is also actively supporting research into the non-nutritional effects of rumen-protected methionine, and on other related supplements which can help address some of the persistent challenges facing dairy producers, such as heat stress and the pressures of reproduction. Today, three of the company’s experts in this area—Dr. Torben Madsen, Vice President and head of the product line Sustainable Healthy Nutrition, Dr. Kiran Doranalli, director of global product management for ruminant solutions, and Dr. Jessie Guyader, ruminants research manager—talk about the mainstreaming of the concept of rumen-protected methionine and the value this can offer to cattle producers concerned with reducing the environmental impacts of their production.
[Feedinfo] In early 2020, Evonik released the results of a study with KPMG about the environmental and social effects of lowering nitrogen discharge through the use of low protein diets in monogastrics. How have you been pushing forward the same theme in dairy/cattle since then?
Dr. Torben Madsen
[Torben Madsen] Evonik traditionally focused on low protein concepts in monogastric species, but we can achieve the same benefits in ruminants. Methionine is the first limiting amino acid in the dairy cow diet, and we are convinced that formulating low-protein diets, balanced for methionine with our rumen-protected product Mepron®, will be essential in future to support our customers’ ambitions to reduce their ecological footprints.
[Feedinfo] What does the concept of protein efficiency in dairy cattle encompass? What role does rumen-protected methionine like Mepron® play in contributing to it?
[Kiran Doranalli] The concept of protein efficiency in dairy cattle is no different from poultry or swine. It begins with a switch from protein nutrition to an amino acid balancing concept. Amino acid balancing of dairy rations represents a viable approach to meet the challenges of environmental sustainability and production economics by improving the protein efficiency and reducing crude protein levels in the feed.
Milk nitrogen efficiency can be used as a key indicator to demonstrate how much of the protein (and thus the nitrogen) appears in milk versus the how much is being wasted (resulting in environmental problems). The use of rumen-protected methionine is a valid strategy to increase milk protein production efficiency and farm profitability. In this context, Mepron® is proven to be the most economically efficient rumen-protected methionine. A meta-analysis of 36 studies showed that Mepron® consistently boosts milk protein yield and milk fat, while also increasing total milk production compared to pH-sensitive rumen-protected methionine.
[Feedinfo] What are the most important benefits Mepron® can offer to dairy farmers beyond its contribution to increased protein efficiency and reduced nitrogen waste?
[Jessie Guyader] The transition phase is the most critical period in the production cycle of dairy cows. Therefore, preventing metabolic issues in this sensitive phase is key to maximizing performance. Mepron® has proven beneficial effects on productive performance and health status of high-producing cows during the transition period. Feeding Mepron® alleviated inflammation and oxidative stress, and improved immunity (neutrophil function) during the transition phase while also increasing the dry matter intake. Mepron® also supports milk performance in transition cows by optimizing the health of the udder and stimulating the activity of amino acids and glucose transporters in the mammary gland.
[Feedinfo] Do you believe the dairy market generally has a good understanding of the impacts a rumen-protected methionine supplement can provide? Or do you think this is still an area where opinions are evolving?
[Kiran Doranalli] Globally, there is a good understanding of the benefits of rumen-protected methionine in dairy cows. The penetration of the concept of amino acid balancing using rumen-protected amino acids is gaining momentum in all major markets. Moving forward, the dairy industry will focus even more on efficiency and sustainability. Rumen-protected amino acids will play a key role in this push.
More importantly, choosing a reliable source of protected methionine will be the key. A product must be supported by abundant reliable scientific literature demonstrating its effects, and a long-time presence in the market with practical experience is also a great benefit. Using a reliable source like Mepron® will enable dairy farmers to reach their goals without additional costs.
Dr. Kiran Doranalli
[Feedinfo] Where do you see the most interest in rumen-protected methionine? How has this demand evolved over the many years you have been involved in this product category?
[Kiran Doranalli] Interest in rumen-protected methionine exists globally as most countries are moving towards having high yielding cows that are more efficient. However, penetration of rumen-protected amino acids in dairy cows is higher in regions like the U.S. where milk production efficiency has been at a high level for decades already. The markets for rumen-protected methionine will grow much faster than the milk market as dairy farmers will switch to more efficient and more sustainable rations globally.
[Feedinfo] Is there still more to be discovered on the benefits of rumen-protected methionine?
Dr. Jessie Guyader
[Jessie Guyader] In our opinion, it is important to make the dairy industry more aware of the different benefits of rumen-protected methionine and the role of precision nutrition for achieving higher efficiency. Overall, such approaches contribute to sustainable dairy farming.
We at Evonik Animal Nutrition are constantly working to understand the role of amino acids, in particular methionine, beyond nutrition. We recently published a peer-reviewed paper showing the positive impact of Mepron® supplementation during late pregnancy on the metabolism and the performance of calves after birth. The fetal programming effect of methionine is a new area of research in dairy cattle which can help to unlock the genetic potential of heifers.
[Feedinfo] Evonik’s dairy portfolio also includes K-pron®, a potassium supplement. What makes potassium a particularly important nutrient for the dairy cow?
[Kiran Doranalli] The potassium carbonate supplement for dairy cows, K-pron® has several benefits such as a rumen buffering effect supporting microbial activity and fermentation. Moreover, potassium may reduce the activity of specific bacterial species responsible for producing intermediates of lipid biohydrogenation causing a drop in milk fat production. At the metabolic level, increasing the dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) with potassium supplementation helps to maintain the acid-base balance and related physiological and cell functions, something essential during heat stress periods.
[Feedinfo] When did Evonik launch K-pron®? What is the connection with the company’s methionine portfolio?
[Kiran Doranalli] Evonik launched K-pron® in Europe in 2019 and now, we are expanding it globally. The combination of K-pron® and Mepron® helps dairy producers to maintain the performance of dairy cows under heat stress: Mepron® optimizes energy metabolism and reduces inflammatory and oxidative stress, while K-pron® has a triple purpose in providing potassium to compensate for losses through sweating, a contribution to the DCAD, and the rumen buffering effect of the carbonate.
We are working on providing holistic solutions with a synergistic portfolio covering products, services, and know-how that helps farmers to reduce their eco-footprint. K-pron® is an example of such an addition.
[Feedinfo] What geographies are the focus for the growth of Evonik’s dairy portfolio? What should the animal nutrition market expect from Evonik in dairy going forward (either in terms of new product launches or an increased push behind existing products)?
[Torben Madsen] We see the ruminant business growing in all parts of the world. Europe and North America remain the most important markets but there is significant growth in other regions. Therefore, we intend to continue our global focus. As for other livestock business, there is a clear trend towards more sustainable production, and an important part will be to support efficiency in production. In that respect, amino acids continue to be core for Evonik Animal Nutrition, but we also evaluate other solutions which can improve overall efficiency in dairy production. We look forward to being able to share more details on these developments at the appropriate time.
Published in association with Evonik