fatty acids and fermentation by-products. Crowder says their approach is to focus on the microbiome, intestinal function and the immune system. “Our nutritionists, who have started to look at diet formulations in a new way, are taking a total nutrition approach,” she reports. “Nutrient lev- els in diets haven’t changed much over the years – the main difference is how these nutrients are provided. This has led to an increased focus on ingredient sourcing, as there is val- ue in understanding the differences in digestibility, which will lead to more effective diet formulations.” Crowder also explains that additives can be highly effective at low inclu- sions levels. “Nursery formulations have been used where the majority of in-feed antibiotics are included in swine nu- trition,” she says. “Those formulas are very complex and space in the diet is at a premium. That’s why inclusion and mode of action are extremely important.”

Other critical aspects At Alltech, a primary focus in RWA feed development is achieving an ideal stomach pH in pigs after weaning. This starts digestive enzyme secretion as soon as possible, leaving less undigested nutrient for pathogens, explains Aimé Roy, Alltech technical swine liaison in Canada. Another critical as- pect for Roy in RWA feed manufacture is mycotoxins. “Most of the time, we underestimate the negative effects of mycotox- ins that are detrimental to the immune system,” she says. In addition, “the control of oxidative stress is increasingly recog- nised as an essential strategy for reaching full genetic poten- tial.” Alltech U.S. Swine Business Leader Russell Gilliam notes that for successful RWA feed development and use, the firm’s ‘production teams’ play a big role, as they help the firm’s nu- trition and veterinary team keep abreast of any challenges that develop, and this makes quick changes in the plan of ac- tion possible. “There are several [pork production] companies that have been very successful at doing this and I believe that a lot of their success stems from making sure that everyone on the team is engaged and all opinions and ideas are seen as having value as the plan is put into place.”

Meeting the challenges In terms of what’s been most challenging in making feed that optimizes the performance of pigs in RWA production, Schu- mann lists respiratory disease as a long-term issue that still lingers. “Although we can boost the pigs’ immune response with antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium, and take care of the gut with many nutritional technologies,” he ex- plains, “respiratory disease is still a serious threat. Better envi- ronmental controls and better husbandry are very important.” The second-largest challenge in Schumann’s view is develop- ing feeds for piglets that suffer from typical post-wean scour: “Especially given that the industry will be significantly re- stricted in the amount of zinc that can be used.” Another chal- lenge noted by Roy is to reduce the amount of undigested


nutrients in the digestive tract of nursery pigs – nutrients that are thus available for pathogens like E. coli to feed on. She says a viable strategy for this could involve reducing crude protein content through the incorporation of synthetic amino acids such as valine.

Looking ahead Like all feed companies, Grand Valley constantly examines new ingredients. In Canada, there will be more of those to analyze in the near future. Schumann explains that the Cana- dian Food Inspection Agency is in the process of easing some regulatory restrictions on feed ingredients and that some products that have been available internationally for quite a while will be receiving registration in Canada – in particular, probiotics blends and acid blends.

Schumann believes that RWA production should get easier as the number of vaccines continues to grow. Also impor- tant, in his view, will be the use of dried fermentation prod- ucts that reduce the severity of a disease challenge mount- ed by a pathogen population. These products prevent ‘quorum sensing,’ where pathogens sense their own num- bers and at a certain density, are triggered to start a disease process in the host. For her part, Crowder believes there will be an increased focus on “nutritional immunology” in ani- mal production, meaning an increased “understanding of how we can better support the immune system of an ani- mal through nutrition.” She also believes “we’ll see an in- crease of non-nutritional additives focused on health, envi- ronment and biosecurity on the farm, as well as food safety. These haven’t so far been a focus on the nutritional side of feed formulation, but will be an area in which nutritionists will play a key role in the future.”

▶ ALL ABOUT FEED | Volume 28, No. 3, 2020 11

Feed is obvious- ly also a critical aspect of successful raised-without- antibiotics (RWA) production.

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