Sustainability-The most critical element in livestock production

Prof. Dr. Leo den Hartog, Director of R&D, Nutreco and a part-time professor in Sustainable Animal Nutrition in Production Chains at Wageningen University, visited India during the last week of April. The agenda of the visit was to meet the research collaborators at various Veterinary Universities and Institutions as well as meeting some key customers.
In an e-interview with Think Grain Think Feed, Prof. Leo shared about commitment of Nutreco for global research on animal nutrition and other developments in India. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
With the gradual rise in middle class and the corresponding affordability, there is a surge in protein requirements globally. Which part of the globe you think is most underprepared and what can be done to counter the downfalls.
Over the past few decades, as you rightly mentioned, we have seen a mismatch with rising demands and struggling supplies – the reason why Trouw Nutrition focuses on “Feeding the Future”.  However, it is not that some parts of the globe are underprepared but one can predict that there are continents where the demand will increase rapidly in the coming decades. Asia and Africa especially will have a huge increase in population and an increase in wellbeing also. Only Asia will have more than half of the world population and Africa will double its population in the coming three decades.
In general, by 2050 we have the pressure of feeding 9 billion people.  The best way to overcome this challenge is by including innovative and sustainable nutritional solutions that support the performance of animals, fish and shrimp.
Trouw Nutrition also recognizes the increasing challenge we face, however, we also see this as an opportunity.  In India, for example, we have our office and Masterlab for our customers in Hyderabad and will have a state-of-art factory in Jadcherla, about 70 kms from Hyderabad, which will cater to the growing market and ensure that we provide innovative solutions to the customers.
With limited resources, optimum utilisation is the need of the hour. What are the most promising avenues that can be explored vis-a-vis Poultry & Aquaculture?
Poultry and aquaculture are sectors, which deliver eggs, poultry meat and fish. Those products have a low carbon footprint per kg of protein (low greenhouse gas emission, compared to ruminants and swine production), are easy to prepare and consumed in all countries. However, I would like to stress on the fact that sustainability is the most critical element.  Solutions related to young animal nutrition, healthy life and precision nutrition will be effective in that respect.
We were able to increase average daily gain and reduce the amount of feed needed per kg of gain (improved Feed Conversion ratio).  As a result we reduced, in the last 3 to 4 decades, carbon footprint, energy use and land use by 25-30 percent per kg broiler meat.  In aquaculture, we are also very active by producing feed for 60 different fish species.
Could you share some anecdotes based on your experience how well does modular precision-feeding systems increases the output for a business?
We have to produce more food in the coming three decades as we have done in the past 8000 years. This results in two main questions. Do we have the resources and how can we limit the emissions.
The outcome has to be efficient animal production. Precision feeding means good quality raw materials (Near Infrared testing) with a known nutritional value (tables with chemical composition and digestibility coefficients) for the different species (ruminants, swine and poultry) and feed the animals to their needs. Precision nutrition will result in efficient production, better profit for the farmer and less emission.
Nutreco has asserted a reduction in Antibiotic use by providing functional feed at the early stages, what advice would you give to those who have been antibiotic dependent and are now looking for alternatives.
First of all: there is no alternative for antibiotics. When animals are sick we need antibiotics to cure them. The need is for responsible use of antibiotics and that is possible only when the animals are healthy.  With a multi stakeholder approach, we can reduce the use of antibiotics significantly. We need robust, healthy animals and a good hygiene and farm management.
Immunity status and later life performance is highly dependent on young animal nutrition.  As a key area of innovation, Trouw especially focuses on young animal feed as part of our LifeStart Programme. Further, with good quality feed and health supporting feed and water additives, research has shown that the same results or even better than diets with Anti-Microbial Growth Promotors can be realised.
When it comes to feed efficiency, microencapsulation of functional molecules and microorganisms has come in picture in the recent years for increasing their efficacy in case of oral administration. Would you like to share some recent study and achievements under Trouw Nutrition’s belt?
In the Netherlands we reduced the use of antibiotics in animal production in the last decade by 64%. As a result we see that the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics on farms with pigs and poultry has decreased significantly.
Trouw Nutrition has done more than a decade research to the mode of action of health supporting additives. Different ingredients and products are tested in vitro and thereafter in vivo. The effect on microbiota composition and gut integrity are determined. Validation of the effect of products on animal performance is studied at the leading universities and with key customers in all continents. Trouw Nutrition has a validation network with about 100 partners all around the globe. Also in India there is a strong collaboration with the leading university and research Institutes. This means that the developed products and nutritional strategies are science based and validated in practice.
Could you please detail a few innovations under Trouw Nutrition that the Industry can look forward to in availing in the recent future?
Trouw Nutrition has always been very proud of their innovative culture.  We have an annual investment of Euro 50 million in innovation and R&D, which reflects our commitment to continuously bring innovative solutions to animal nutrition industry.  Our key focus areas of innovation are LifeStart, Healthy Life and Precision Nutrition.
Innovations are diets for the young farm animals (e.g. a diet for the first four days of broilers), because that is the basis for a good production later in life. Lifestart sets life performance.
Feed and water additives for tackling the gram positive and gram negative bacteria are composed and tested in practice. Advice for feeding the farm animals in an optimal way are available e.g. fiber content and coarseness of diets for broilers for a high digestibility, split feeding for laying hens, analysis of the available lysine (reactive lysine).
The innovations are not limited to products but also our unique services that align with our objective of becoming integrated solution providers for animal nutrition industry.  An example of our unique service is NutriOpt On-Site Adviser, our hand held on-site scanning device, that allows real-time raw material and feed analysis in farm and feed mill.  Thus, it is helpful not only for quality assurance but also helps in quick decision making.
When it comes to feed quality and animal health, what according to you is the most under-rated factor that can be a threat?
Concerning the quality of raw materials it is extremely important to use high quality products. The effect of changes in the climate on the contamination of raw materials with mycotoxins is increasing and a threat. Testing and using the right measures to avoid negative impact on the animals is crucial. Early detection of mycotoxins is highly important and on-field tools for mycotoxin analysis, like Mycomaster, can reduce the impact by helping in fast and reliable decision making.
On a global level, animals are performing about 40 percent below their genetic potential. This is mainly due to suboptimal circumstances and health status. This means that health supporting nutritional strategies and health supporting feed additives (instead of using antibiotics on a routine basis) are needed.
Unlike developed countries, Quality assurance and a Regulatory framework is not as robust in developing countries like India, what recommendations would you like to make to the Industry leaders w.r.t importance of third party certifications and QA/QC in order to develop a global stand?
Industry leaders are responsible to deliver high quality products. Sharing good results and best practices are supportive. Quality systems and certification of the products and way of production are necessary.
Trouw Nutrition is also taking responsibility through Nutrace approach, our quality program, which is based on 5 pillars:  Certified quality and food safety, Ingredient and supplier assessment and management, Monitoring and Control, Risk Management, Tracking and tracing.  This approach is central to all our units including Trouw Nutrition India.