Protein – the essence of feed

We all know that protein is an important nutrient for humans, and it is equally important for poultry and all other classes of animals. This article aims to spotlight the importance, availability and handling considerations that should be factored into protein procurement in India.
The amino acid profiles directly influence protein availability and play a significant role in animal growth, immunity, adaptation to the environment and many other biological functions, as well as end-use characteristics such as egg production and meat quality.
Furthermore, protein synthesis promotes cell and tissue growth, such as organ development and function.
While it’s a vital part of feed formulations, protein is also known to be the most expensive ingredient, and it cannot be replaced or substituted with other elements.
Biological Functions of Protein
To add to it, specific amino acids such as lysine contribute to other biological functions. For example, the presence of lysine improves carcass quality of chickens by supporting formation of type IIB (fast glycolytic) fibres, which hold smaller amounts of fat and have less nutrient loss during the cooking process; as opposed to type IIA (fast oxido-glycolytic) fibres, which form when lysine is deficient.
Threonine has significant metabolic roles and helps regulate gastrointestinal secretions and endogenous losses. It works to improve the digestibility of nutrients and prevent digestive disorders.
Other amino acids, such as methionine, may partly compensate for a deficiency of choline or vitamin B12 by providing the required methyl groups. Also, the amino acid tryptophan helps alleviate niacin deficiency through metabolic conversion to niacin.
While these conversion processes are of theoretical interest only, it’s important to note that it would be poor economics to satisfy a vitamin deficiency with the addition of amino acids, a relatively more expensive ingredient.
Requirements for Broiler Chickens
For broiler chickens, feed rations often contain 20-23% protein for the starter feed and 18-20% for the finisher feed, with a metabolizable energy value ranging from 3000-3200 K.Cal/Kg. Chickens may respond differently to the increased protein level in the diet, depending mainly on the protein quality and the amino acid profile thereof.
If feeding a low-quality protein, which has inadequate or imbalanced amino acids, then increasing protein levels would have no effect on growth performance, feed efficiency and carcass traits. Rather, it could lead to high mortality rates and leg problems, particularly in the finishing phase. In this case, one would need to add the first limiting amino acids to increase productivity. The effects of this strategy will continue until the maximum genetic potential of the bird is reached and amino acids are no longer a limiting factor.
Requirements for Layer Chicken
Layer chickens require all 22 amino acids to achieve the protein necessary to produce an egg (muscle, feathers and skin). It’s essential that these amino acids be supplied and available in sufficient amounts in the diet.
Nutrition Under Disease Conditions
With most disease outbreaks, it’s necessary to increase the level of dietary protein or at least maintain it within the recommended ranges. Protein influences the release of hormones such as insulin, glucagon, thyroxin, as well as growth hormones, all of which affect the immune system and improve its disease-fighting capability.
In other cases, the increased protein level of the diet can contribute to some diseases such as necrotic enteritis in broilers, which usually occur 2-6 weeks post hatching. This is due to the over growth of C. perfringens in the small intestine, increasing from a normal level of 104 CFU to 107 or 109 CFU per gram of digesta and causing clinical disease.
With the increased dietary protein level, there will also be an increased activity of the enzyme trypsin in the small intestine. This will, in turn, lead to faster release of coccidia from the oocytes which eventually become so active as to be less responsive to vaccination.
In such cases where bacterial and protozoan agents are likely to prevail, it may then be beneficial, among other measures, to reduce protein levels below the recommended range to alleviate the effect of these pathogens.
Sources of protein1
There are many protein sources commonly used in poultry and animal diets. Some of these include:
1) Plant-based origin — Soybean meal at 50%, cottonseed cake at 45%, sunflower meal at 35%, oil palm kernel expeller at 18%, rape seed meal at 40%, and copra meal at 23%.
2) Animal origin ¬— Fishmeal and meat- and poultry by-products. These not only provide protein but also serve as good sources of minerals, vitamins and other nutritients.
3) Brewery and bioethanol production by-products — Dry distiller’s grain at 30%, brewer’s grain at 25%, and maize gluten feed at 20%.
4) Leaves and straws — Cassava leaves at 25% and legumes can be used as protein sources if any of the afore-mentioned sources are unavailable. Groundnut straw at 12% also contains higher protein content than cereals.
5) Insects and worms — Mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) at 52,8%, and black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) at 42,1% can be good alternatives.
Work with your nutritionist and veterinarian to determine the best source and ratio of protein in your feed formulation, considering availability and economic feasibility. This process will help to achieve the target protein concentration with better amino acid profile and alleviate much of the production and health problems that may potentially arise from using only one protein source in excess of the recommended level.
When evaluating protein sources and availability, you’ll find that soybean meal is an excellent source of energy, protein and amino acids … but it’s important to note that not all soy or soymeal is created equal.
Not All Soy Is Created Equal
“Quality” can have as many definitions as there are uses for soy, reported Gonzalo Mateos, a professor of animal science at the Polytechnic University of Madrid in Spain, in a recent meta-analysis. For some, he said, high-quality means high crude protein, minimal foreign material and uniform size and appearance. However, research shows quality also influences the energy composition, protein and amino acid levels.
Regional variables include soil quality and the levels of phosphorus, iron and potassium. These vary by soil type and the amount of fertilizer or manure that is applied. Additionally, Mateos explained the oil and amino acid composition fluctuates based on quality, and quality is influenced by latitude (exposure to humidity, temperature and hours of daylight) — factors out of anyone’s control.
One think I like from his statements is: “While most people are concerned with the quality of the meal, I believe you have to be concerned with the quality of the bean; garbage in equals garbage out.”
Mateos also emphasized the following points while buying soy meal:

  • Protein
    AA profile and protein quality
    N x 6.25 vs. real protein
  • Energy
    Digestible protein (no energy provided by the digestible fraction)
    CHO profile
    Digestible vs. fermentable vs. not usable
    Lipids (remaining oils + added gums …)

Other points
Chemical: choline
FFA profile, peroxides
Contaminations (AA degradation, mycotoxins, …)
Physical values: color, particle size
Considering all physical and micro biological factors, buyers need to have a holistic approach than focuses on source availability, quality, nutritional profile and overall value
Now considering the global scenario for example, research shows that premium can be earned by poultry producers who use U.S. soybean meal. In 2020, these premiums ranged from $14.57(Rs 1071) to $23.24(Rs 1708) per ton over Argentine soybean meal and from $2.48(Rs 182) to $10.26(Rs 754) per ton over Brazilian soybean meal.
In the current market environment, with soybeans price at the $14(Rs 1029)- and $15(Rs 1117) per bushel levels, the premium is exacerbated even more.
From India perspective, one needs to understand the importance of following points:

  • Soil health and soil type (where the soy is grown)
  • Seed quality
  • Farming procedure
  • Area of production (state)
  • Weather conditions during plant growth and harvesting
  • Post harvesting care and handling of grains
  • Quality of the raw beans at arrival to crushing units
  • Crushing plant: is it the most important? Labor, equipment, functioning
  • Storage of the beans at the farm/crushing units
  • Transport conditions

Nutritional value of soybean meals can be maintained by giving attention to all these points for getting a better meal quality and better protein availability.
To better understand these differences in nutrient availability and how that can impact your business, ask for a demonstration of the Nutrient Value Calculator — a tool that brings visibility to the true costs of different feed rations.
Source: farm4trade

by Jaison John, USSEC India