Austrian company Delacon - a pioneer in the production and marketing of phytogenic feed additives - brought 250 people together at their Performing Nature Symposium in Greece. On the beautiful island Crete, the first day of the symposium was full of talks about pigs, poultry and why we should have a plan B.
Helmut Dedl, president of the company offically opened the symposium by briefly looking back on the 30 years that Delacon ex$ists. Started as a small company, the company is still not very big (70 employees). However, it stands out because of their long history in phytogenics and essential oils and their current strong R&D focus. "We are very careful in our claims," said Dedl, addressing that the company spends 10% of their turnover in research activitities and trials.
Prof John Hodges from Austria kicked off the speaker session by talking about "bounderies in animal production". Being a animal geneticist himself, he stressed that the agricultural sector should be careful in the application of GM crops and animal cloning. He explaned that some bounderies are vital (ancient) whereas others may be less vital. This should be taken into account when "playing with nature". According to Hodges we also focus too much in making current production systems more efficient instead of having a plan B in mind. He advocates increasing the support for small rural farmers. "This way, we might have more change in safeguard future world food supplies instead of letting mega firms grow even bigger," according to Hodges. Plan B is needed because we have reached the green plateau regarding the use of fertiliser in crops. "I think GM crops are not the silver bullet, relying on them to feed the world is too tricky," said Hodges.
Reduce the variance
Dennis DiPietre, pig consultant from the US explained the audience that we should not work with averages anymore, but pay more attention to the individual animals. Variance of the batch already begins in the womb, where piglets are competing with each other. This is reflected throughout the whole growing period. According to DiPietre, most farmers do calculations with average numbers (weight, FCR etc) and also make decisions based on these averages. "However, to be able to create a full value pig (the weight and age where the pig is most value) we have to decrease the variation within a batch of pig," said DiPietre. "At the moment, pig farmers are losing too much money, simply because most pigs are not on their optimum when they are sold". By measureing the individual weights (per week for example) we have access to the "hidden information". This information can be used to find out where the variance comes from and what can be done about it".
Neivaldo Burin from a large poultry integrator in Brazil (C. VALE Cooperativa Agroindustrial) gave an excellent overview of the Brazilian poultry industry. Brazil is the current number 1 poultry exporter in the world, shipping an annual 3,645 million tonnes (2008). Burin explained that the Brazilian chicken industry from the 1980s has revealed itself as being one of the most dynamic activities of the Brazilian economy. Strenghts of the strong presence of Brazilian poultry is the the fact that the country has many raw materials on hand (soy, maize and wheat). The climate is excellent to have 2 (sometimes 3) harvests per year. In addition, the industry is based on an integrated system, which can reduce the overall cost price of the end product. However, their are also some weak points of the chicken industry in Brazil. According to Burin, the country struggles with a deficient infrastructure system, scarce credit, very high interest rates, very high tax burden and customs barriers. "Our challenge is to overcome these hurdles, so we can still increase our production in a sustainable way without sacrificing the Amazon for raw materials. We have to convince the world that this is possible," Burin concluded.
EU poultry regulation
Dr Jan Dirk van der Klis from Schothorst Feed Research in the Netherlands talked about several challenges the European poultry market is facing or will be facing in the near future. He mentioned the EU welfare directive for broilers (to come into effect in 2010) and the EU welfare directive for layers (to come into effect in 2012). These new rules make maximum stocking density and NH3 output important criteria. "Animal nutritionists have therefore an important role in optimising poultry diets and improving the competitiveness of European poultry production despite these regulations," said van der Klis. He also mentioned that since the EU ban on antimicrobial growth promoters (2006), the production of broilers and turkeys decreased due to an increase of of intestional disorders. Therefore, the level of dietary indigestible crude protein should be maximised to avoid protein fermentation in the intestinal tract. Particle size and insluble dietary fibres are in turn valuable tools to improve intestinal health, Van der Klis addressed.
Wilhelm Windisch from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria gave a clear summary on the current alternatives for antibiotic growth promoters. He mentioned organic acids, probiotics, phytogenics, enzymes, functional fibres and heavy metals as the current options. Examples of phytogenics include oregano, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, clove and anise. Some of these products or a combination can improve feed intake and imprive the digestion and performance (mostly via the stimulation of digestive juices in the digestive tract).
Dari Brown from Land O'Lakes in the US ended the first day with a nice presentation in which she highlighted the current trends in the North American swine industry. These include: the economic crisis, increased use of DDGS, increased use of synthetic amino acids, rising concerns regarding the use of AGPs, animal welfare and handling concerns and increased litter sizes among others. "The last six months we hear a lot about the future ban on AGPs in the US and we notice that the pressure on the sector in increasing. Many feed companies and research institutes are increasing their efforts to test alternative products such as phytogenics, so when the ban is implemented we are ready to serve the market" Brown explained. Brown also addressed the trend of increasing litter sizes may face other problems at farm level. "The number of piglets born alive may drop and stillborns may increase per litter. Therefore, animal nutritionists are also focusing on evaluating natural products to improve piglet birth weights. Brown also advocates better care and nutrition programmes for sows (multi phase feeding programmes, parity feeding, use of alternative ingredients etc).
Delacon is known for their products: Fresta F Conc (which will be named Fresta F from January 1st 2010), Aromex, Biostrong, Enviro Plus, Rumex and Myco Ad.
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