11 April 2022 – With feed being the biggest cost point in pig production and feed raw material prices increasing steadily over the last few years, helping these animals extract as much protein from as little of these ingredients as possible has become a key cost-saving strategy.
In the EU – where imported soybean meal, domestic rapeseed meal, sunflower meal from Eastern Europe and legumes make up the feed protein landscape – producers, like elsewhere in the world, are also looking to alternative protein sources to alleviate feed cost pressures. This has opened the door to cheaper ingredients in feed formulations that can have varying protein digestibility profiles.
Boosting the protein availability of these various feed ingredients, therefore, has never been more important; especially in pig production as pigs, like other monogastric animals, have a hard time accessing the protein in feedstuffs due to their digestive system being unable to fully breakdown the complex structure of these ingredients.
According to Provita Supplement’s Sales Manager for Europe, Guido Johanterwage, and its Product Manager, Annika Hoppe, this is where the company’s fungal fermentation product, MAXFERM/PRO, can be a helpful tool for pig producers. Not only can it help address the protein bioavailability in various feed stuffs, therefore making cheaper protein alternatives more viable options for use in feed, it can also reduce the total protein content needed in formulations, which can further impact feed costs.
In this Industry Perspectives, the duo takes us on a deeper dive into the solid-state fermentation process behind the product, how it can help improve protein efficiency in production pigs, and the impact this can have on producer’s feed costs and sustainability initiatives.
[Feedinfo] How can optimising the protein availability of feed play a role in helping European pig farmers address the rising cost of feed proteins on the continent?
[Guido Johanterwage] Pig feed costs are often prioritised when optimising or reformulating diets and the optimisation of protein availability plays an important role here. Solid State Fermentation (SSF) products can help when implementing new feeding strategies with low-protein diets by unlocking protein from plant cell walls and other fractions of the feed that are usually hard to digest. For example, the trend we are seeing is that more expensive protein feeds, like soy, tend to be replaced by less expensive ones – mainly locally available legumes (e.g., peas, field beans) – which mostly have minor protein availability. This, therefore, makes protein digestibility an important criterion in the diet.
[Feedinfo] What exactly hampers protein digestibility in pig diets?
[Annika Hoppe] The protein digestibility in pig diets is usually hampered by complex sugar-protein chains that need to be broken up before the animal will be able to use the protein from plants, like rapeseed or sunflower. This way, the protein from the plant cells and cell walls is released and proteases can attach the protein directly in order to start digesting it. Without a prior disintegration of the plant cells and cell wall structures, the protein cannot be used by the animal’s organism and cannot be digested. SSF products can contribute to a solution by increasing the protein digestibility of feed ingredients with lower protein digestibility.
[Feedinfo] Yes, so let’s talk about how your SFF product, MAXFERM/PRO does this. What is the science behind how solid-state fermentation can enhance protein release from feed?
[Annika Hoppe] In human nutrition, the SSF process has been used for thousands of years to, on the one hand, make food more shelf stable and, on the other, increase its nutritional value. By using selected strains of Aspergillus fungi with carbohydrase activity and a wide range of fermentable substrates, our product MAXFERM/PRO can break up the protein rich cells and cell residues in the feed very efficiently. By this process, protein from the colloidal system of the cytoplasm and from the cell wall is mobilised. This way, more protein will be available for the proteolytic degradation in the digestive system.
At the same time, carbohydrases degrade sugar chains linked to the surface of plant-based protein. This helps proteases with easier access to protein molecules and enhance their digestibility.
[Feedinfo] You recently conducted a trial with MAXFERM/PRO looking at its efficacy in improving protein efficiency in swine diets. What were some of the key findings?
[Annika Hoppe] The effect of the MAXFERM/PRO technology was examined in a trial with fattening pigs. Based on the same assumed improvement on the apparent ileal protein digestibility, the addition of MAXFERM/PRO was evaluated. A treatment group of animals with a protein reduction and simultaneous supplementation of MAXFERM/PRO was compared to both a positive (standard diet) and negative control group (protein reduced diet).
The results showed that the protein reduction could be compensated for with the addition of MAXFERM/PRO, ending up in an increase of 2.5% in daily weight gain and an improved feed conversion of 2.3% when compared to the positive control group.
So, in the end, it can be assumed that the use of MAXFERM/PRO improved the protein digestibility, along with the performance parameters of the fatteners. This means that reducing the protein content in a pig’s diet without negatively affecting its productivity is possible, which should help with reducing feed costs. Moreover, the environmental impact will be reduced due to less excretions of undigested protein.
[Feedinfo] How have grain types containing high amounts of non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs) presented both a solution and a problem to the issue of rising feed costs? How can MAXFERM/PRO help here?
[Annika Hoppe] The primary goal of MAXFERM/PRO is unlocking protein sources. However, as bonus effect, it is also able to improve the digestibility of NSP in protein rich feed which allows for the increased use of NSP-rich grains and by-products in the diet, further helping with the reduction of feed costs.
In addition, the breakdown of NSPs promotes desirable bacterial populations that have a positive effect on animal health. The proportion of undesirable populations is decreased because less undigested crude protein reaches the large intestine.
[Feedinfo] So let’s take a look at the economics. What is the impact that MAXFERM/PRO can have on swine producers’ feed costs and, by extension, the overall financial well-being of their operations?
[Guido Johanterwage] As described above, the use of MAXFERM/PRO allows for a reformulation and reduction of crude protein content. Feeding trials showed that this protein reduction did not result in any performance drop. At the same time, the use of MAXFERM/PRO positively influenced feed conversion and daily weight gain of the animals with a consistent lean meat quality. Considering savings after diet optimisation, lower feed costs and a simultaneous increase in performance, we can assume a price advantage of 2-5%. Altogether, this determines the profit and loss of pig fattening.
[Feedinfo] What about their sustainability ambitions? Considering MAXFERM/PRO’s impact on the gut, can it be a valuable tool in addressing industry concerns, like nitrogen and ammonia emissions? How effective is it?
[Annika Hoppe] Sustainability is an important topic and a parameter that is an integral part of our selection criteria when researching new product ideas. Because less high-protein feed is needed, MAXFERM/PRO can assist farmers in maintaining a high level of performance and a high proportion of lean meat in the carcasses while reducing nitrogen emissions and enhancing the liquid manure balance.
We also did a feeding trial in two separate barn compartments with fattening pigs in order to further assess the effects of MAXFERM/PRO on ammonia concentration. The results showed that MAXFERM/PRO, in combination with a diet with reduced protein content (-3 percentage points soybean meal) was able to significantly reduce the average ammonia concentration in the ambient air of the barn by 15%.
[Feedinfo] Where else do you see potential for functional fermentation products, like MAXFERM/PRO, in swine nutrition?
[Guido Johanterwage] MAXFERM/PRO does not only enhance pig fattening, but also has great potential in sow and piglet feeding.
An optimal supply of protein to the lactating sow can help boost her ability to supply the piglets with a high milk yield. Plus, when added to the gestation feed, MAXFERM/PRO can help lower the protein contents of the diet at this stage, which can also impact cost as the gestation diet is usually fed for a much longer period of time than the lactation diet.
MAXFERM/PRO can also help piglets during the rearing phase by supporting the functions of their digestive system as they cannot immediately form all the enzymes themselves. Piglet diets are also usually high in protein with limited potentials of decreasing these protein contents as many farmers are afraid of taking the risk of an undersupply. The inclusion of MAXFERM/PRO provides new options in the diet formulation.
[Feedinfo] What’s next in the R&D pipeline?
[Annika Hoppe] Gut Health is an important topic which is always top of our minds. Besides other projects, our future R&D work will focus on the potential of functional fermentation products to improve gut integrity. Some initial study results have shown a positive influence on gene expression of tight junction proteins. For that project, in-vitro cell cultures from pig intestines were used to investigate how MAXFERM/PRO can promote the intestinal health. This research approach is now being examined more closely in further studies.
Apart from that, we are continuously examining symbiosis effects of various products in our portfolio that promote the overall intestinal health of animals.
Published in association with Provita Supplements