1313 views 8 commentslast update:7 Aug 2012

Animal friendly feeding

Today's animal production is changing. Consumers are increasingly aware of the process of food production, which is directly reflected back in the policies that are formulated by the agricultural ministers. Animal welfare is one of those topics that are of high public concern and political relevance.

Today's animal production is changing. Consumers are increasingly aware of the process of food production, which is directly reflected back in the policies that are formulated by the agricultural ministers. Animal welfare is one of those topics that are of high public concern and political relevance.

Instead of ignoring or underestimating this relevance, I think the agricultural sector needs to embrace the matter. In terms of production and housing many improvements or additions can be considered. But, animal nutritionists can also contribute to this issue! A number of studies have already been carried out to explore how diet formulation and certain ingredients can influence the immune system and hence improve animal health and welfare. Especially in the pet food industry, an increasing amount of work is carried out to explore the potential effect of feed ingredients on pet health and wellbeing.

Less aggressive dogs
At the latest Pet Food Nutrition Update in Solingen, Germany Professor Wouter Hendriks from the Animal Sciences Group , Wageningen UR explained how certain ingredients can influence the behaviour of pet animals. Referring to Mugford, 1987, who said "When we are considering how a dog is behaving, we really should be considering what is inside the stomach", it makes sense to have a closer look at the interaction food and mood. Hendriks named protein/amino acids, antioxidants and phytoestrogens as some of the ingredients that have an effect on the way a dog behaves. Many nutrients are precursors to hormones; dietary changes therefore may lead to changes in behaviour.

A study in dogs (Dodman et al. (1996)) showed that territorial aggression scores were lower (p = 0.035) for medium- and low-protein diet compared to high protein diet. However, the effects that commercial pet foods have on pet behaviour are still largely unknown.

Stress and immunity
In farm animals, the focus is more in boosting the immune system and reducing stress. At the Feed and Wellness symposium in the Netherlands, organised by Schothorst Feed Research , Theo Niewold from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium spoke about the relationship between nutrition and immunity or health, and concludes that feed, immunity and the nervous system are indeed interconnected.

At the same time, he emphasised that it is very difficult to translate in vitro functional cell studies to in vivo health, and it is often equally hard to translate immune parameters measured in vivo to health. As some researchers said before (Field et al (2002)), Niewold also said we should be more open to "nutrient-directed management of immune-related syndromes." This may include an increase use of antioxidants in the feed for example, as Spears and Weiss recently reported in the Veterinary Journal. They say that a number of antioxidants – such as Vitamin E and beta-carotene - may affect health in transition dairy cows. Supplementation of these antioxidants showed reduced incidence of mastitis and retained placenta, and reduced duration of clinical symptoms of mastitis in some experiments.

Complexity
Although there are a number of studies – in pets and farm animals – that showed some new insights in how to formulate "healthy diets", some interactions between ingredients and health are still unclear. It is also questionable if animal welfare is improved if you reduce the stress level and increase the immune system. Of course it helps in preventing diseases - and thus animal wellbeing - but there are more factors involved to create an optimal living environment for farm animals.

In addition, the enormous complexity of the interactions requires research techniques which can cope with such intricacies, and real progress in this field is possibly only to be expected by application of genomic (micro-array) analysis. Nevertheless, increased knowledge on this topic will hopefully result in more animal friendly feeding strategies for the future. This is at least how animal nutritionists can do their bit to improve animal welfare and minimise animal diseases and immune related problems.

8 comments

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    Al Mathers

    I raise pigs. I am so glad that the rights and treatment of animals is finialy reaching the Farmers. Perhaps We someday will be able to reduce the size of those 1 million animal farms and let us sm. farmers stand a chance in the markets.

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    Arno van der Aa

    This is indeed a very intersting subject. Therefore I would like to point out that from 10 to 13th of September in Ghent (Belgium) the 4th International Symposium on Wellfare Assessment on Farm and Group Level takes place.
    During this symposium Orffa Additives will organize a workshop named: "“The effect of feed measurements to overcome current and future problems on farm level with implementation of animal welfare legislation”. Two specialists will introduce the workshop with insights in feed measurements to improve animal welfare. We hope to receive many participants willing to discuss on the interaction between animal welfare and nutrition.

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    anabel of the Philippines

    I am a cattle and goat in-charge for production. I really need some researches using different feeds on this ruminant animals for fattening. Thank you.

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    Farmer

    This is not true: “..which is directly reflected back in the policies that are formulated by the agricultural ministers.“

    Consumers are increasingly aware of the process of food production, but agricultural ministers do not do thing with this awareness. Take gentech for example. Something consumers do not like but is still tolerated by agricultural ministers.

    Animal welfare is one of those topics that is indeed of high public concern, but political it seems to be not relevant. Why for example, is there still no ban on fur? Why is still the hunt on whale legal? Furthermore I do not think the industry is interested in healthy diets other than to sell to pet owners. Fact is that farm animals need to be fat and ready for the slaughterhouse asap. Health care issues only increase the cost of production and has therefore no priority.

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    Concerned Budding 'Nutritionist'

    Sick soil, produces sick plants, which in turn produces sick animals produces and guess what? Yes, that's right, sick humans. We've got to get back to feeding the animals with a decent diet, if we want healthy food.

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    nneji chidiebere

    your piece is very interesting.I am a poultry in nigeria and i just got my degree as an animal nutritionist,i incounter a problem in my farm the size of my eggs a re very small,how do i raise the size, and how do i reduce the amount of feed my birds consume[i am into egg production

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    orphan hachinene

    good feed gives good meet and in my work ihave found out that the better the feed quality,the better results you get.For my dogs,i heve always wondered what made them good wach dogs?It is the feed with high protein.

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    mleema

    orphan hachinene

    // 30 jul 2008
    your piece is very interesting.I am a poultry in nigeria and i just got my degree as an animal nutritionist,i incounter a problem in my farm the size of my eggs a re very small,how do i raise the size, and how do i reduce the amount of feed my birds consume[i am into egg production
    If you want to raise the size of eggs, you must increase linolev acid (add more plant oil or animal fat) in diet...you can reduce feed intake increase protein and energy in ration

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