By the year 2050, the ever-growing world population will increase the global demand for animal-sourced food by 70%. As a result, feed technology which is the application of physical, chemical, biochemical, biological, and engineering techniques to increase the nutrient utilisation of feed and fodders will gain further importance.
As an integral part of animal production systems, feed technology provides high-quality, nutritious food with reduced impact on scarce resources such as energy, water, and minerals. Although, the livestock feed industry faces major challenges including a need for detailed evaluation of feed technology, nutrient variability, and process variability. These challenges are leading to demands for innovation in several areas related to animal nutrition including feed technology.
The top 3 beneficial effects of feed technology are discussed below.
Feed mixing is essential to assure that an animal receives all of its formulated nutrient allowances every day. Uniformity of particle size and number of particles per unit weight are important criteria in the selection of various micro ingredients and the evaluation of their mixing quality. In addition, feed ingredients with similar sizes and densities tend to blend easily and quickly. Although, the diversity of physical forms and density of individual feed ingredients complicate the preparation of uniform feed mixes.
Plant-based ingredients including cereals comprise considerable amounts of macronutrients, micronutrients, and anti-nutritional factors. Major anti-nutritional factors present in edible crops include saponins, tannins, phytic acid, gossypol, lectins, protease inhibitors, amylase inhibitors, and goitrogens. Anti-nutritional factors decrease nutrient bioavailability, reduce the digestibility of proteins and mineral absorption, and cause micronutrient malnutrition and mineral deficiencies. Various feed technologies such as fermentation, germination, debranning, autoclaving, soaking are used to lower the levels of these anti-nutritional factors in livestock feed.
Microorganisms are the main agents responsible for food spoilage and food poisoning. Heat causes membrane damage, loss of nutrients and ions, ribosome aggregation, DNA strand breaks, inactivation of essential enzymes, protein coagulation. Therefore, nonthermal technologies including irradiation, high hydrostatic pressure, pulsed electric field and ultrasound under pressure are used to inactivate microorganisms at sublethal temperatures, thus preserving the sensory, nutritional, and functional properties of livestock feed. On the other hand, increasing feed safety by reducing microorganisms and the risk of feed spoilage would enhance feed intake in livestock.
The top 3 challenges of feed technology are discussed below.
It is recognised that there is a large diversity in manufacturing lines including flow diagrams, unit operations, equipment, and process systems, to name a few. Various systems including grinding, and agglomeration need to be thoroughly assessed to figure out the optimal processing condition, and to improve nutrient utilisation by animals. In addition, to meet the demand for new feed ingredients, every aspect of current techniques needs to be evaluated to improve the processing and preservation technology for feeds and feed ingredients.
Feed ingredients substantially differ in their nutrient content across ingredients and within a single ingredient. The livestock feed industry is aware of the demand for high-quality animal feed; therefore, the variability in dietary ingredients needs to be carefully controlled. The variability in dietary ingredients is related to plant genotypes, environmental conditions during growth, harvest/storage conditions, and the final processes that affect the nutrient composition of the co/by-product. Lack of a complete, accurate, and timely nutrient analysis of feed ingredients leads to over-formulated feed that will not meet the animal’s requirement for optimal growth and performance.
Process variability is caused by errors in processing including weighing systems, sampling techniques, process equipment, and the conditions during important processes such as grinding, extrusion and steam treatment which can markedly affect the nutritional value of the product. In addition, sub-optimal sampling techniques and protocols in production facilities affect the accuracy of feed composition data. An accurate estimation of the nutrient content of feed ingredients leads to more effective feed formulations. Therefore, using proper sampling and analytical techniques is considered as a major challenge in feed mills.
Source: Review article: Future directions of animal feed technology research to meet the challenges of a changing world – By: A.F.B. van der Poel, M.R. Abdollahi, H. Cheng, R. Colovic , L. A. den Hartog, D. Miladinovic, G. Page, K. Sijssens, J.F. Smillie, M. Thomas, W. Wang, P. Yu, W.H. Hendriks. Published in Science Direct