19 May 2022- Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein. For years, they have been used in animal nutrition diets to meet a variety of production goals, from helping support the healthy growth of animals to helping feed manufacturers formulate nutritionally robust rations in a cost-effective way.
Increasingly, amino acids are also being used to meet goals around sustainability. The careful use of supplemental amino acids can allow you to reduce the amount of crude protein fed to animals, without leaving them deficient in essential nutrients. Reducing the protein in animal diets has a variety of virtuous effects: you have lower amounts of undigested nitrogen being discharged into the environment from animal waste, and you require fewer protein-rich ingredients like soy, thus reducing the water and greenhouse gas footprint of the diet.
Evonik has been one of the major champions of this idea, and over the past few years, has looked into quantifying the benefits reduced protein diets balanced with amino acids can provide for the environment. Today, we speak with Dr. Kiran Doranalli, Director Global Product Management for Ruminant solutions and Dr. Claudia Parys, Director Technical Marketing Ruminants at Evonik’s Animal Nutrition Business Line about how this concept can be applied in the ruminant sector.
[Feedinfo] You have recently studied how supplementing dairy cattle with rumen-protected methionine and lysine can help formulators reduce the dietary crude protein (CP), and consequently reduce nitrogen emissions into the environment. What were the positive effects on the environment from these formulations?
[Claudia Parys] We followed the ‘cradle-to-farm gate’ approach to quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for an intensive dairy production system. Low protein amino acid-balanced diets saved 28 kg CO2-equivalents/1,000 kg of fat and protein corrected milk (FPCM), corresponding to a yearly saving of 14.0 metric tons of CO2-equivalents at an average farm scale. The main driver of this difference was the reduced nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions with the low crude protein (CP) diet (-13.2%), which is the consequence of higher nitrogen (N) efficiency and lower N excretion in the manure.
Furthermore, lowering dietary protein saved about 2,600 kg of blue water per 1,000 kg FPCM (-7.8%), which is equivalent to roughly 1,300 m³ per year at an average farm scale. This effect was mostly related to the reduced amount of soybean meal in the low CP diet, the cultivation of which requires a high amount of water. The reduction can also be explained by the lower drinking water consumption. Cows fed high protein diets need to drink more to be able to excrete the excess urea in urine.
[Feedinfo] What does this mean in terms of dairy’s contributions to eutrophication and acidification? Why should the industry care about reducing its nitrogen emissions?
[Claudia Parys] A positive effect of the low CP diet was observed on eutrophication (-4.9%) and acidification (-5.8%). These differences are equivalent to a yearly reduction of 150 kg phosphate (PO4)-equivalents and 500 kg sulfur dioxide (SO2)-equivalents for an average farm. The saving in ammonia (NH3) emissions when applying a low CP diet balanced for amino acids is equivalent to the NH3 emissions related to the application of synthetic fertilizer on more than 350 hectares of cropland.
When considering the whole production system, reduction in N excretions from animals will subsequently reduce ammonia and nitrous oxide from the manure. By adopting low CP diets balanced for amino acids, the dairy industry can positively contribute to environmental benefits through reduction of GHG emissions, while also economically benefitting from the lower feed costs associated with the reduced use of protein-rich feeds.
[Feedinfo] Were there any impacts on animal performance from a reduction of this size (either positive or negative)? Might it be feasible to replace even more of the CP with supplemental amino acids without impacting performance?
[Claudia Parys] The effects of reducing the protein level in diets for dairy cows has been successfully investigated in a number of experiments under scientific and practical conditions. We can typically reduce 1 to 2 percentage points of dietary CP by balancing for amino acids using just Mepron. A number of studies shows that the reduction of dietary CP does not have a negative impact on the performance when balanced for amino acids.
In fact, there are a lot of positive responses to amino acid balanced diets such as improved immunity, better management of oxidative stress and increased protein yield from better amino acid supply. There is absolutely space to further reduce CP by supplementing the next limiting amino acids, primarily lysine.
[Feedinfo] This follows in the footsteps of work Evonik published a few years ago on reformulating monogastric diets in similar ways. Have you seen this idea gain momentum among producers (either those raising ruminants or those raising monogastrics) in recent years? What geographies or parts of the market are really leading on this?
[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. The low protein concept in dairy cows is gaining momentum, mainly driven by increased feed costs and the push to reduce N excretions to the environment.
The U.S. is leading in adapting such advanced formulations, while other regions like Europe, China, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America are following. However, there is a lot of work that the scientific community, industry, and feed additive manufacturers still need to do to further the adoption of low protein diet concept in dairy cows.
Methionine and lysine are the first and second limiting amino acids in the dairy cow diet. We are convinced that formulating low-protein diets, balanced for amino acids with rumen-protected products (e.g., Mepron®, AjiPro-L) will be essential in the future to support our customers’ ambitions to reduce their ecological footprints.
[Feedinfo] Evonik recently announced it would be adding production of Mepron®, its rumen-protected methionine product, in Mobile, AL. What does this signify about the growth of Mepron® in the Americas in recent years? What are your projections for its growth going forward?
[Kiran Doranalli] We have resumed operations at our Mepron® plant in Mobile, Alabama (USA), meaning it will once again supply the U.S. dairy markets from a local source. During the global pandemic and due to uncertainties in demand, Evonik had adjusted its manufacturing capacities for Mepron® globally, which also affected the plant in Mobile. Having plants strategically situated in Europe and the U.S., strengthens supply security not only for our regional customers but also ensures global supply security, especially in challenging times like these. We are also backward integrated in key raw materials at our production hub in Mobile.
The U.S. is the region with the highest stock of high yielding cows, producing 12.5% of the world’s milk. Rumen-protected methionine plays a key role in maintaining this production in an efficient and sustainable way. With the pressure to increase milk production efficiency while reducing the environmental impact through N excretion reductions, the U.S. market for rumen protected amino acids will grow further in the coming years. Mepron® is one of the best available rumen-protected products, supplying the highest metabolizable methionine, and supporting customers to increase their bottom line. We are already seeing high demand for Mepron® in the U.S. and it will continue to grow.
[Feedinfo] What are some of the other solutions that Evonik is exploring in the area of ruminants? What should the market expect from Evonik on this?
[Kiran Doranalli] Dairy plays an important and integral part of the global food system. In the future, markets for nutritional products which drive efficiency will increase, while sustainability, animal health and welfare needs will gain prominence. Amino acids will continue to be core for Evonik Animal Nutrition, but we also evaluate other solutions which can improve overall efficiency in dairy production. Customers can expect solutions to further lower dietary CP (next limiting amino acids, e.g., rumen protected lysine), products that will increase the fiber digestion and thus improve the rumen efficiency, and analytical services and tools to monitor dairy feed formulation, specific nutrients, and carbon footprint.
Overall, our goal, as always, will be to work closely together with customers on this journey. We look forward to being able to share more details on these developments soon.
Published in association with Evonik