Algae-derived fatty acids show promise for animal reproductive performance: Alltech

Increasing livestock fertility, nailing precision feeding, developing fish meal substitutes and a migration away from antimicrobials are the immediate goals of a US led research alliance relying on ‘innovative’ nutritional and management practices.

Agribusiness companies, research institutes and universities from nine countries including China Japan, Australia, the US, Ireland, Norway, the UK, India and France, under Alltech’s Research Alliance program, met in Beijing last week to look at how technology can address global livestock production challenges. Dr Karl Dawson, that company’s chief scientific officer and global research director, spoke to us about the work the Alliance has been involved in.

“There is huge overlap in what it is going on in genetics, nutrition and management in terms of animal husbandry, with the latter two often having to play catch up with the breeding side. But learning the management and nutrition tools that address genetic advancements are critical to fertility, production efficiency and optimizing the animal’s gut health.

One of the things we are doing is trying to identify challenges and then we set about manipulating nutritional programs to increase offspring per breeding animal.

Some of the research teams in the Alliance have been focused on how looking at how changing the ratio of trace minerals can improve reproductive performance or how mycotoxin contamination can impact fertility.”

Multi-discipline teamwork

The Alliance, he said, is designed to stimulate multi-discipline teamwork, to provide access to joint funding, research and intellectual property. “There are a great number of projects, most of which I have some level of involvement in,” said Dawson.

Alltech researchers, he said, have been looking at how algae-derived Omega-3 fatty acids can also impact reproductive performance.

“A trial we are running in conjunction with the University of Florida indicates the success of artificial insemination programs increased by 50% by including algae-based fatty acids in cattle’s diets during lactation – the findings are preliminary but promising,” said Dawson.

The teams are also evaluating the composition of feed materials, using tools such as Alltech’s dairy targeted In Vitro Fermentation Model (IFM) but also models that simulate digestive processes in monogastrics.

“The kinetics of digestion has been on our radar for a number of years – understanding the interaction between nutrients in ruminant and monogastric systems to better enable precision feeding,” said Dawson.

Gut health

Over the last 20 years, he said a lot of development has taken place around gut health and nutrition but a weakness still exists in terms of the diagnostic technology available. “We need indicators of optimal gut health,” he said.

He said Alltech wants to be able to look at an animal’s intestinal tract but in a non-invasive way and then make recommendations on how to improve nutritional programs based on the findings.

“We are fairly close to coming up with a number of systems for gut health profiling – we have a couple of good candidate systems that will allow for rapid evaluation of blood and fecal material,” said Dawson.

Antibiotic alternatives

The teams, he continued, have also been active in the area of nutritional and management programs that will help pig and poultry producers migrate away from antimicrobials focusing on nutritional components such as organic acids, yeast cell based products, trace minerals, antioxidants and essential oils, among others, and seeing how they “stack up” against antimicrobial-based systems.

“In addition, we are looking at tools to replace the use of ionophores in cattle feed,” added Alltech’s research director. The Alliance has also been addressing aquaculture industry challenges, screening candidates for both partial and total fishmeal replacement from grains and algae.

“We have been looking at alternative ways of putting plant based materials together to devise an all vegetarian diet for fish. A lot depends on the life stage and the processing techniques used in aqua feed production in terms of how digestible and efficient these ingredients are,” said Dawson.

And he said the teams have not seen any substantial anti-nutrient effect from fats in algae, despite some of the conclusions of the literature discussing their benefits for use in aqua feed.

 

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