Solid & science-based technology to optimize feed costs

One innovative technology based on the micro-encapsulation of seaweeds and plants extracts, which stimulate digestive functions, can help secure performance, and reduce feed costs, according to recent research program.

Dr Stéphanie Ladirat
Global R&D Director

The cost of feed continues to be a headache for nutritionists and producers, with the poultry industry being extremely sensitive to feed price volatility, compared to other animal protein segment. Indeed, feed ingredients suppliers globally have had to address incredibly long lead times, exorbitant shipping costs, labor shortages, and un precedented demand for packaging components since the pandemic began. Lately, we see as well the rise of energy costs and the grain prices. Consequently, there is a need to identify savings to preserve margins for producers.

One option for nutritionists consists in increasing the feed efficacy of animals to reduce the cost of feed per unit of meat produced and/or to increase digestibility to reformulate feed and reduce feed costs. Looking for savings often has a knock-on effect on the feed additives usage as people try to pull cost from the diet. Therefore, feed additives suppliers need to demonstrate a clear value to their customers for the technology they offer, based on a true rigorous scientific approach. As an example, using enzymes to optimize feed costs is commonly accepted, while the implementation of so-called matrix values for other categories of feed additives is still limited, thus some room for further improvement.

Recently, a feed additives company developed a new kind of phytogenic solution (NUQO©NEX). It contains a combination of metabolites from plants but also from algae (phytogenic and phycogenic), protected via a unique micro-encapsulation technology. With a high concentration of actives and a high stability, this solution guarantees a precise release in the gut and cost-effective dose, like no other solution currently. This technology has been developed to maximize poultry performance. It can be used as an alternative growth promoter or to optimize feed conversion ratio and performance to ultimately increase return of investment of poultry operations.

While several trials have confirmed the efficacy of this technology to improve performance of broilers in various context and geographies, scientists have worked in parallel to evaluate the specific impact of this technology on feed digestibility in order to give more flexibility to formulators and nutritionists.

A recent trial was performed at the university of Berlin (Germany), to compare the effects of 4 treatments: One negative control, two commercial products based on phytogenics (P1 & P2), and a new technology (NUQO©NEX / NQ). The effects were measured on performance of the birds and apparent ileal digestibility of feed at 21 days of age. Researchers observed that the combined product not only improved digestibility of nutrients (crude fat, crude protein, and starch) but increased digestibility of minerals (crude ash, calcium, and phosphorus) as compared to the negative control. The other two solutions improved digestibility of some nutrients and minerals but to a lower extend than NQ. Performance results at 21 days are well in line with the observed effects on digestibility. The NQ treatment had the strongest effects on nutrient and mineral digestibility, and had the highest improvement in performance at 21 days, with better gain (+2,2%) and improved FCR (-0,6%) as compared to the control. All in all, the treatment NQ showed an improvement of feed digestibility that resulted in an improved performance, compared to classic products based on phytogenics.

Another trial was conducted on a research farm, in Cairo, Egypt during 35 days in summer 2022. The broilers were fed a 3-phases diet (Starter/Grower/Finisher). The negative control diet was formulated with a matrix value of 30kcal and 0,3% crude protein. All diets contained enzymes (Phytase and NSP) and toxin binders. Starter and grower diets included a coccidiostat but no growth promoters. The Inclusion levels of various feed additives were as prescribed by the respective manufacturers in all diets. A matrix value for the enzymes was also applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, meaning that the matrix value of NUQO© NEX was applied on-top of the enzyme matrix. In a nutshell, the 4 treatments were as follows: CO: Control (without antibiotics) / NC: Negative Control (-30kcal/-0,3%CP) / CO-NQ: CO with NQ “on-top” / NC-NQ: NC with NQ and its “matrix” application.

When used “on-top” NQ had a lower feed intake (-2,2%) but a similar final body weight, resulting in a significantly improved feed efficiency (-2,5%; P<0,05). Considering the current local feedstuffs price and the bird performance of this trial, it was calculated that using NQ on-top of the feed brought a return on investment (ROI) of 5 to 1 for the operation.

When used with Matrix: First, at day 35, the broilers fed the negative control diet impaired performance as compared to the birds fed the control diet (-1,3% BW and +1,1% FCR). When used in a diet formulated with a matrix value of 30kcal and 0,3% crude protein, NQ improved feed efficiency as compared to NC (P <0,05) and helped restoring the bird performance as compared to CO. It even numerically improved BW and FCR beyond the control diet (CO). Therefore, the matrix value of 30kcal/0,3%CP can be considered as conservative. From an economics standpoint, there is a high interest of using NQ technology with a matrix value. It allows to save feed costs and brings even additional performance. Based on current local feedstuff price and performance in this trial, it represented a net profit for the producer (0,016€ Profit/kg Live Weight).

Performance improvement upon the addition of NQ treatments was accompanied with an improvement of the gut morphology as compared to CO: longer villi height (P < 0,05) for a similar villi height to crypt depth ratio. These results indicate that the absorption capacity was increased while the cell renewal needed for longer villus height did not come at the costs of energy for growth. Besides, further investigation have shown that NQ technology could reduce the levels of C. Perfringens and Coliforms and improved the level of Lactobacillus in the diets formulated either with or without matrix value (P < 0,05). The caecal pH was also reduced when using NQ technology (P < 0,05), probably due to the higher level of Lactobacillus observed in the caecum, that produced lactic acid.

Nowadays, while 70% of poultry production costs are feed related, feed efficiency is obviously a major focus for profitable poultry production. Improving nutrient utilization to optimize performance in poultry is a powerful strategy and meets consumer demands and expectations from the market. A new technology has been developed to specifically boost digestive functions and gut health of birds. Synergistic effects of selected phytogenics and phycogenics, protected with exclusive micro encapsulation technology, contribute to improvements in feed efficiency and increased performance and livability in all poultry species; thus, reducing the production costs per kg of animal protein produced, with a higher magnitude compared to existing phytogenic products.