Nutrition can be a more powerful tool than genetic manipulation for controlling production, animal health and quality, a large US livestock conference was told recently.
The results of a new feeding program, designed by biotechnology company Alltech and trialled by the US’ largest lotfeeder Cactus Feeders, were detailed at Alltech’s One 17 Ideas Conference at the company’s Kentucky, US, headquarters last month.
The large-scale trials have demonstrated that with proper timing, a targeted nutritional approach can increase carcase weight, dressed yield and rib eye area independent of antimicrobial or beta-agonist supplementation.
The program, named Epnix, stems from Alltech’s nutrigenomics and epigenetics research platforms.
Nutrigenomics is the study of how diet affects gene expression. Simply put, nutrigenomics looks at what a person or animal eats and studies how their body responds to it.
Alltech opened the world’s first fully dedicated nutrigenomics and epigenetics lab in 2008.
It enabled the company to pinpoint the specific feed ingredients necessary to optimise lean tissue deposition.
Nutrigenomics allows researchers to identify the metabolic pathways crucial to muscle growth, and observe both what has changed (increased weight gain) and why it has changed (improvements in energy metabolism).
This has lead to the Epnix program which focuses on providing the right blend of nutrients, at the right time, to encourage the animal to express its genetic potential. It includes a proprietary blend of ingredients along with organic trace mineral supplementation.
“Using nutritional interventions specifically targeted to each stage of production, we can achieve better health, improved performance and increased profitability,” Dr Vaughn Holder, research project manager with Alltech’s Beef Nutrition department, told the conference.
“Through feedyard trials with Epnix, we have seen increased carcass weight up to 14 pounds (6.35kg) and significant increases in dressed yield and rib eye area.
“This increases profit per head and ultimately delivers a positive ROI to the producer.”
Through its research, the company has been able to manipulate natural growth hormones and insulin receptors – which is central to the way Epnix operates.
“The technology conditions cattle to utilise finishing technology, that will drive home feed efficiency, health, production and improved economics.
Alltech began its large scale commercial research with Cactus Feeders in 2014.
They compared cattle on the Epnix program* – at the heart of this is the Total Replacement Trade Minerals Program, which is used to condition the rumen of the animal – with a control group on the Cactus Feeders ration. A second trial used the Epnix program and removed antibiotics.
The control group contained trace minerals from mostly inorganic sources plus monensin and tylosin. Epnix diets contained organic trace minerals, yeast and bacterial preparations, but not monensin or tylosin. Both groups were fed for 165 days.
The group on Epnix diet put on an additional 18kg (40 pounds) of carcase weight, which Dr Holder said was validation for 8 years of work.
They also recorded a 70% reduction in respiratory disease.
The group of cattle on the Epnix program minus antibiotics showed added profitability of $4 a head compared to the standard ration.
“For an operator like Cactus, that’s an additional $4m a year,” Dr Holder said.
“You’d never take antibiotics out of a ration unless you had the incentive to do so or were forced to do so, but the option is there.”
* Editor’s note: We made some inquiries following Rob Lawrence’s reader comment (see below), and have received the following clarification from Vaughn Holder at Alltech: “The reduction in respiratory disease was on a separate trial that looked at total replacement of trace minerals only, without the rest of the EPNIX program. Also the trace mineral trial in question was conducted at another independent commercial research Feedyard in Hereford Texas, called OT Research Feedyard.” Apologies for any confusion.
- Alltech funded Australian jourmanlist Stephen Cooke’s attendance at the Alltech One Conference.