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Sophisticated Combination Technologies Necessary to Meet Layer Industry’s Challenges, Argues Danisco – INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVES

Source: Danisco Animal Nutrition & Health, via Feedinfo

From performance to egg quality, sustainability to welfare, feed cost to nutritional value, diets for the layer industry must strike a balance between several critical interests. According to Danisco Animal Nutrition and Health, part of IFF, additives including enzymes, probiotics, and betaine, whether considered on their own or in a blend, can play an important role in helping to address challenges such as reducing the number of broken or dirty eggs or ensuring adequate nutrient levels in layers whose productive lives are longer than ever.

Talking us through the evidence-based solutions that Danisco Animal Nutrition and Health can offer are Julien Kanarek, global business segment leader for poultry, and Emma White, global technical marketing specialist.


[Feedinfo] A layer’s productive lifespan is longer than ever. What challenges does that impose, and how can optimal nutrition help to achieve high production in long-life layers?

[Julien Kanarek] With the current context of animal welfare and sustainability, layer producers are pushing laying cycles out to 100 weeks of age, as a result of improvements in genetics and environmental management. Longer production cycles mean fewer replacement hens are needed, supporting sustainable production.

However, the demand on the bird to produce more eggs in a lifetime means there is a greater physiological demand and nutrition is key to maintaining bird performance, welfare, and egg quality. Bone mineral reserves may become depleted if there is insufficient calcium and phosphorus in the diet to support egg production. This may negatively impact bird welfare due to the increased risk of bone breakage. Including a high-performing phytase like Axtra® PHY GOLD in layer diets can help to increase mineral availability for absorption.


Julien Kanarek
Global business segment leader for poultry
Danisco Animal Nutrition & Health

Moreover, egg quality also decreases as laying hens age. A laying hen will deposit the same quantity of Ca to produce the eggshell (6 g) but there is a clear tendency for older birds to have increased egg size, therefore increasing the risk of cracked/broken eggs. Supporting optimal nutrition with the use of phytase and carbohydrase enzymes can help to maintain egg quality and shell strength as the birds age.

It should also be noted that layers are very specific animals; they will stop eating when metabolic needs are met, whereas broilers will eat until full. Another interesting physiological characteristic of laying hens is that they have longer intestines relative to bodyweight, leading to increased nutrient absorption, which means that they are more able to digest fibre than broilers. These differences in growth and digestion influence the diets fed to layers vs broilers. Last but not least, layers can selectively feed and pick out particles from mash feed. This will accentuate with age. Producers must balance production KPI and feed cost as it can be up to 70% of production cost. We need to keep that in mind to achieve high production in long-life layers to balance feed cost and nutritional quality.


[Feedinfo] Improving egg quality is another important priority for producers, to help boost income and improve sustainability. What role do additives such as enzymes, probiotics, or betaine play in reducing the number of broken or dirty eggs?

[Emma White] Egg quality is key to maximizing the number of marketable eggs. Marketable eggs have the most value for producers as these can be sold as whole eggs and for a greater price. Egg breakage can account for up to 8 to 10% of production losses for producers. Feed additives can improve nutrient digestibility to support egg quality and increase the number of marketable eggs, optimizing the overall profitability.

Emma White, Danisco

Emma White
Global technical marketing specialist
Danisco Animal Nutrition & Health

As there are a lot of antinutritional factors in layer diets, phytases, carbohydrases and proteases enzymes break down respective substrates to improve nutrient availability for production and support a favourable nutribiotic state. Probiotics support beneficial bacteria to maintain optimal gut health and nutrient absorption. Betaine mitigates the effects of heat stress, strengthening the gut barrier, which means more nutrients can be absorbed for egg production.

A specific cocktail of xylanase and beta glucanase, such as Axtra® XB, can reduce intestinal viscosity, therefore reducing the incidence of dirty eggs. Additionally, Axtra® PHY GOLD phytase will hydrolyse phytate to release minerals, amino acids and energy to support eggshell formation and reduce the number of broken eggs.


[Feedinfo] Optimising both sustainability and animal welfare is a balancing act. How is Danisco Animal Nutrition & Health supporting its customers in meeting the – sometimes conflicting – expectations of consumers in these areas?

[Julien Kanarek] First of all, we need to acknowledge the pain points of our customers. We have identified several welfare issues related to the cage system. The main one is cage layer fatigue or osteoporosis. The understanding that insufficient bone mineralization causes a loss of structural bone and increased incidence of fracture by the end of the laying period helped us to support welfare challenges. Therefore, we are investigating further into the skeletal health of laying hens as it is a major welfare and economic concern. Danisco Animal Nutrition & Health technologies will maintain welfare in the later stages of lay when body reserves may become depleted.

On the sustainability side, it is essential to feed appropriate levels of nutrients, reducing nutrient excretion, and optimising utilisation of raw materials. The move towards free-range layers is expanding but we know that these laying hens produce eggs less efficiently than caged layers, with a risk of increasing the numbers of broken or cracked eggs, leading to increased raw material usage. We need to make sure that the available nutrients are fulfilling the birds' requirements.


[Feedinfo] One objective of your research programme in layers is to better understand the combined effects of different technologies – different enzyme blends, for example, or phytase along with probiotics or phytogenics. Can you give an example of such a combination in action, and explain how it was able to assist with challenges such as productivity, egg quality, sustainability, and/or cost control?

[Emma White] As Danisco Animal Nutrition & Health has a broad portfolio, we are studying the combination of technologies in layers to allow us to develop customer-specific programs for each market condition. We conducted more than 30 layer studies in 14 different countries which demonstrated improved egg production and egg mass with our biotechnologies.

Our objective is to better understand the mode of action of combined technologies specifically for layers. For example, a study on long-life layers fed diets supplemented with Axtra® PHY and Axtra® XB in combination, with matrix values applied, demonstrated reduced feed cost whilst improving hen-day egg production and eggshell breaking strength, compared to a control supplemented with Axtra® PHY alone.

In Asia, we are investing in trials to understand the supplementation of several technologies combined – such as probiotics (Enviva® PRO), phytogenics (Enviva® EO) over the top of the leading phytase Axtra® PHY GOLD solo or in combination with carbohydrase enzymes (Axtra® XAP or Axtra® XB).

Finally, we are looking at broadening the parameters we typically measure to gain further insights into the effect of our additives. In recent studies, we have also looked at parameters such as bone quality, immune markers (genes expression of immunomodulatory and nutrient co-transporter), and blood parameters.


[Feedinfo] Layer formulations can vary widely around the world, depending on local ingredient price and availability. How does Danisco Animal Nutrition & Health’s research into the challenges facing layers, and the applicability of different feed additive technologies, account for such variation?

[Julien Kanarek] We understand that the overall objective of our customers is to increase nutrient digestibility and performance, maximize feed cost savings and reduce excretion of expensive undigested nutrients. Therefore, Danisco Animal Nutrition & Health took a structured approach by reviewing 17 regional laying hen diets to gain a greater understanding of the different alternative raw materials, and the impact this might have on the presence of various anti-nutritional factors.

We have assessed the different dietary challenge levels for these 17 diets by quantifying the amount of 4 main anti-nutritional factors: phytate phosphorus, soluble NSP, total arabinoxylans, and undigested crude protein. Dietary challenge levels were classified as either medium or high for the majority of layer diets. 87% of the diets had medium to high levels of phytate P and soluble NSP. Additionally, 94% of the layer diets contained medium to high levels of undigested crude protein. This demonstrates laying hen diets typically have high levels of dietary challenges which means sufficient undigestible substrates for the exogenous enzymes. ​

When applying matrix values from multiple products, the substrate level present in the diet is considered and accounted for. For example, if phytate is present in the diet at greater amounts due to the inclusion of rice bran, the opportunity for nutrient release is greater, therefore, a greater matrix value could be applied compared to when the phytate level is lower. We have also demonstrated that a full matrix (mineral, energy and amino acids) can be applied successfully in layers, for individual or combined enzymes.


[Feedinfo] Understanding the economic impact of different feed additive technologies is, of course, essential. What goes into a ROI assessment, and what kind of assistance can you provide your customers in helping to understand the impact on their bottom line that they can expect from using different solutions?

[Emma White] To assess ROI and the benefits of feed additive technologies, multiple parameters must be taken into consideration.

This starts with the breed standards on FCR and the hen-day egg production (HDEP) (%) which is linked to the specific farm details described by the number of birds placed.

Then we have to focus on the current performance of the farm by listing several adjustable customer-specific parameters such as HDEP, percentage of marketable eggs, duration of the cycle, FCR, egg mass, number of eggs per kg of feed, liveability, feed cost and egg mass price to accurately reflect field conditions.

The third step is to define which technologies will be used, stand-alone or up to 11 technologies in combination, with a defined cost in use for both nutritional and gut health products. A preparatory work needs to be done on the estimation of the feed cost savings linked to the different enzymes used considering the potential application of matrix values.

The fourth step will be to quantify the performance improvement for each technology, expressed in percentage gained in FCR, liveability, HDEP and marketable eggs. It is important to note that performance improvement will not be considered when full matrix is applied.

At the end of the economic impact assessment, we can calculate the benefit either per kg of egg or for 1000 eggs. It gives us the net value per bird placed and finally the overall ROI.


[Feedinfo] What should the layer industry expect out of Danisco Animal Nutrition & Health going forward, particularly on using enzyme blends to meet the various challenges of sustainable, profitable, high-welfare and high-quality egg production?

[Julien Kanarek] Danisco Animal Nutrition & Health will continue to work with customers to help them better manage their challenges to successfully reach their goals. More research will be conducted on how to combine technologies. We will be partnering with consulting groups across markets to understand their unmet needs.

To achieve sustainability goals, we will continue to assess the performance of the current and new technologies on local raw materials and specific diets.

In a changing regulatory landscape, we want to support our customers’ initiatives to fulfill their quality standards, particularly linked to food safety.

Finally, focusing on the evolution of consumer needs, we will leverage the use of biotechnologies in the layer industry to contribute to a more sustainable world.

Published in association with Danisco Animal Nutrition & Health, part of IFF