Improving efficiency in animal protein production

Published: 12-11-2015, | Member: Nutreco / Nutreco R&D

The demand for animal protein is predicted nearby to double in the next 40 years, while nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide emissions need to be halved. These conflicting demands require extra innovation, according to Leo den Hartog, Director R&D at Nutreco and part-time professor at Wageningen University. On July 1, 2015, Food Valley Society members were invited to visit Nutreco’s new research facilities.

Nutreco produces feed and feed ingredients for farm animals and fish and has sales in over 80 countries worldwide. The company also offers its customers a broad range of services like raw materials composition tables, lab support, near infrared (NIR) analyses, and species-specific production and economic models (NutriOpt).

Nutreco invests heavily in research and development. Internationally, the company employs 250 R&D people at 11 research centres. In early 2016, it will open a new research facility in Boxmeer, The Netherlands, dedicated to calf and beef nutrition. The Food Valley Society excursion in July offered members a chance to visit this new facility.

Feed innovation
Nutreco’s research program is based on three key focus areas for innovation: Life Start, Health & Welfare and Feed efficiency. “By the year 2050, meat production is expected to have to grow by 200 million tonnes and dairy by 300 million tonnes in order to meet the growing demand for meat, fish and dairy,” says Den Hartog..

He links the predicted rise in demand to population growth. “The World Health Organization (WHO) forecasts that there will be nine billion people to feed by 2050. The demand for meat, fish and dairy keeps also growing as the standard of living in countries like China, India and Brazil continues to rise. That means we’ll have to produce 75% more meat and 50% more milk.” Den Hartog does not find these numbers alarming. “The production of animal protein can be made much more efficient,” he says. “Up to 40 percent of the genetic potential of the animals around the world is not used”

There are great differences between countries and between farms within a country. “In The Netherlands, dairy cows produce an average of 9000 liters of milk per year. The worldwide average is much lower namely 2,500 liters of milk per cow annually. And half of the planet’s pigs are raised in China, where meat production is half as efficient as in Western countries.” But even in The Netherlands, there is room for improvement in efficiency.

Innovation is key, according to Den Hartog. “Good nutrition is essential for high levels of production and optimum animal health. Early life nutrition of a calf can determine her lifetime production. ” Every additional gram of daily growth of a calf in its first months of life delivers an extra 4 liters of milk in first lactation. Research results are used to further optimize Trouw Nutrition Sprayfo and Milkivit milk replacers for calves and its Milkiwean pig feed.

Intestinal health
Intestinal health is also an important factor. “The better its intestinal health, the stronger the animal’s immune system,” Den Hartog said. “Good health is better for both the animals’ welfare and their production and it reduces the need for antibiotics.” Over the past few years, Nutreco has invested in new analytical methods in her research lab. Several mostly natural feed additives that boost intestinal health were launched. One of those is Selko Presan™, which was developed to optimize intestinal microbiota and improve gut wall integrity.

Nutreco’s third key focus area for innovation, devoted to Feed efficiency, investigates how to optimize feed rations (composition and amount) for optimal conversion of feed into animal protein (fish, meat, milk and eggs). “More efficient feed conversion doesn’t just benefit farmers, but also the environment because it helps to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide emissions.”

Den Hartog sees a bright future ahead. “I’m convinced we can continue to meet the world demand for animal protein even in 2050, as long as we keep investing in innovation and apply this new knowledge nationally and internationally.”

Nutreco / Nutreco R&D