Different production goals and challenges in poultry require a different approach to management and diet formulation. And this means that general – and often outdated – trace mineral guidelines urgently needed an update, as there is much to win here, says Dr Leonardo Linares from Zinpro.
The poultry industry has changed considerably over the last 10 years and at a faster pace than in previous decades. Animals have become more feed efficient and reach their market weight sooner as a result of advances in genetics and feed efficiency. At the same time, we see an increase in diversification and specialisation of farms, such as antibiotic or Salmonella-free production, in times of higher production costs and changing consumer and environmental demands.
“Because we see rapid major changes in the global poultry industry, it is important to consider the different production goals and work with the latest research data on nutrient requirements for the poultry species farmed and the genetics you use. Although genetic companies do work on nutrient recommendations for these fast growing birds, they mainly focus on energy, amino acids and macro-minerals needs. For trace minerals (and vitamins) we see that they still resort to old recommendations such as the NRC reference in the US, which dates back to the 1990s. So imagine the potential in savings and production optimisation we can achieve if we can update trace mineral recommendations for different poultry species and different production goals,” says Dr Leonardo Linares, who is the global poultry tech services nutritionist at Zinpro Corporation. Dr Linares understands that genetic companies cannot update all the requirements for micronutrients. He says: “It’s not their main activity and they don’t have the time and resources to investigate it. And that’s logical. But at our company we do have the knowledge and long-standing experience with trace minerals, backed by hundreds of scientific studies carried out in different animal species and in different regions of the world. This has resulted in the development of the Zinpro global poultry mineral guide, an interactive document that compiles trace mineral recommendations designed to make poultry operations more precise in terms of trace mineral supplementation and to address various challenges.”
The 80+ scientific studies and validation trials that Zinpro carried out in different poultry species are the backbone of their updated global poultry mineral guidelines. “Over the years, birds have become more feed efficient. They eat less feed for each kg they produce either meat or eggs. So it may seem logical to think that we have to increase the dosage of trace minerals per kilogram of feed to meet the mineral requirements of the animal. Interestingly, this is not the case. From our research data we saw that being more feed efficient also comes with being more efficient in trace mineral retention and uptake. So the money saved in being more feed efficient is lost if we keep the same (or higher) levels of trace minerals in the diet. And this is where our science comes in to address mineral uptake and retention in different poultry species. The information gained from our validation studies shows what the modern bird really needs, which helps farmers to be more precise and accurate in formulation (and thus not overfeed trace minerals). With the focus on more precision feeding of trace minerals, the quality and the source of the minerals is becoming more important and it can make a real difference. This is because high growth rates and aspects such as heat stress and other stress factors also put more pressure on gut health and metabolism than before, which could hinder efficient uptake of macro and micro nutrients. If we have more bioavailable and metabolisable forms of trace minerals we can make sure that the small amounts we dose are used as efficiently as possible,” Dr Linares says.
With the focus on more precision feeding of trace minerals, the quality and the source of the minerals is becoming more important and can make a real difference.”
– Dr Leonardo Linares
The new guide has listed general recommendations but also lists them for different challenges such as breast myopathies/meat quality, food safety, infectious diseases, sustainability for different species (broilers, broiler breeders, commercial layers, turkeys and turkey breeders) and different production phases (starter, grower, finisher in broilers and turkeys and the pullet and layer phase when dealing with breeder birds and layers). Dr Linares explains: “For example, when a broiler producer applies an antibiotic-free diet, the guide shows the recommended ratio of the different trace minerals and for example a higher level of copper in the starter phase only (if this is allowed in the region where that farm is located), because copper has an antimicrobial and gut health promoting effect. Regional legislation should always be taken into account. In Europe, and parts of Asia, we cannot exceed 25 ppm of copper in the finished feed, but in the USA and Asia this maximum level does not apply. The guide also shows which part (in ppm) of the overall requirement is advised to supplement in the form of our performance trace mineral range. By replacing some of the inorganic trace minerals with more bioavailable sources you can be more precise and achieve better overall performance. This is because our minerals have a different metabolic pathway and mode of action and do not compete with other trace minerals for the same absorption channels in the gut. The result is better uptake of the mineral, better resilience against pathogen and anti-nutritional challenges, and an overall better ROI, without changing the total dosage. And this is more sustainable and cost-efficient as well.”
Having this mineral guide is a great conversation starter when visiting farms. Dr Linares: “We should listen better to farmers and consider the production goals and challenges they have. Precision feeding is not about selling the same product to all farmers. It is important to give tailor-made advice and help them improve. It’s a combination of nutritional advice and looking at the management around it. Infectious diseases control can vary in priorities for different farmers, depending on their regions and poultry stock density in those areas,” explains Dr Linares.
According to Dr Linares, it is key to monitor the results on farm when changing the mineral ratios and source of minerals. The positive outcomes inspire other farmers to confidently make the change and ask their nutritionist to re-evaluate trace mineral dosages and suppliers. This is important to build a more sustainable poultry sector. Trace minerals are dosed in small amounts, yet they have a big impact for the animal and its performance. “If we can be more accurate and precise and partly replace the inorganic sources with more bioavailable sources, there is huge potential to save on mineral losses and total feed costs.” Dr Linares also addresses the fact that – for the first time – accurate mineral requirements are shown for turkeys and turkey breeders. “Most research data relates to broilers, but we are increasing our knowledge of other poultry species as well. The turkey industry is a big sector (especially in the USA), so it is great that we are starting to apply more precision feeding for these animals as well,” Dr Linares concludes.