Feed Efficiency

Nutrient Optimization Strategies

The Importance of Feed Efficiency in Livestock

Maximizing feed efficiency is pivotal across all livestock sectors, including poultry, ruminants, and swine. In poultry, the focus on balancing cost-effective feed ingredients with nutritional quality is essential for the health and productivity of the flock. For ruminants, feed efficiency hinges on the optimization of rumen digestion. Here, the feed serves a dual purpose: nurturing rumen bacteria for their subsequent use as microbial digestible protein and providing nutrients for direct absorption in the small intestine. This approach is critical for extracting maximum energy from every gram of feed.

Similarly, in swine production, feed costs dominate the financial landscape. Maximising feed digestion and nutrient absorption is crucial. A healthy, functional digestive system in pigs ensures efficient breakdown and uptake of nutrients, fostering better health and growth. This efficiency not only enhances the well-being of the pigs but also yields substantial cost savings and improved ROI for farmers.

Across these diverse livestock groups, the underlying principle remains the same: optimising feed efficiency is a crucial driver for health, productivity, and economic viability in animal agriculture.

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Balancing Cost and Quality in Poultry Feed

Feed constitutes 70% of poultry production costs. Reducing expenses by using alternative raw materials is a tempting strategy, yet it poses challenges to flock performance and overall profitability, which is sensitive to raw material price fluctuations.

The key concern with alternative feed ingredients is their quality. Proper nutrient absorption, especially proteins, energy, and minerals, is vital for flock health and productivity. However, these alternative ingredients often fail to provide these essential nutrients efficiently.

Therefore, poultry feed management faces a two-fold challenge. The first is to maximize the nutritional value derived from feed ingredients, ensuring that the birds receive all the essential nutrients for optimal growth and health. The second challenge is to expand the use of cost-effective alternative feed ingredients without compromising quality. This approach is vital for maintaining the health and productivity of the flock, ensuring economic feasibility, and achieving a sustainable balance in poultry production. This strategic balance is key to navigating the complexities of cost management while upholding the highest standards of poultry nutrition and performance

Balancing Feed and Health in Poultry

The quest to balance cost and quality in poultry feed, especially with the introduction of alternative feed ingredients, directly ties into the broader challenge of managing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in poultry operations. The shift towards alternative feeds, while economically beneficial, brings with it the risk of disrupting young chicks’ gut health, particularly during their critical first 14 days. This disruption can precipitate a range of health issues, from digestive disorders to increased susceptibility to diseases like Necrotic enteritis and Focal duodenal necrosis.

As the industry moves away from antimicrobial growth promoters (AGPs) in response to AMR concerns, market demands, and regulatory changes, these health challenges become more prominent. The absence of AGPs leads to heightened risks of not only gut-related issues but also respiratory, integumental, and skeletal challenges, as well as food safety concerns with pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter.


  • Balancing cost-effective and nutritious feed.
  • Managing gut health in young chicks
  • Combating rising antimicrobial resistance
  • Adapting to global AGP restrictions
  • Addressing prevalent poultry diseases

Solutions From AGQ

AGQ’s NovoSophos, a tributyrin-based butyrate, marks a significant advancement in the realm of poultry nutrition, offering a synergistic solution that complements current poultry feed practices. NovoSophos improves feed digestion and utilization, which is particularly important when incorporating alternative, lesser-quality feed ingredients into poultry diets. Its efficacy extends to reinforcing gut lining integrity, a critical factor for maintaining optimal gut health and functionality.

Compounds like butyrates emerge as a promising alternative, enhancing the digestion of alternative, lower-quality feed ingredients while simultaneously preserving the integrity of the gut lining. They play a crucial role in controlling pathogens. They can be complemented by activated Vitamin D3, which improves calcium and phosphorus turnover and boosts immunity by facilitating the production of Host Defence Peptides. These advanced feed additives represent a forward-thinking approach to poultry nutrition that addresses feed quality concerns, supports gut health, and reduces the dependency on traditional antimicrobials, thereby mitigating the risk of antimicrobial resistance.

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The Delicate Balance of Feeding Ruminants

Feeding ruminants is a delicate waltz, where too much of rapid fermentable carbohydrates, for example, can cause acidosis or SARA, while too much Rumen digestible protein is a net loss due to rapid deamination to ammonia. Certain fats can affect some rumen bacteria and produce defaunation, hindering the ability of the rumen to digest feed properly at a constant and efficient manner.

The Economic Impact of Feed Inefficiency

Poor feed efficiency can have a significant impact on the bottom line for farmers. It results in decreased productivity, reduced growth, and milk yield, causing economic losses due to the need for additional feed and supplements. The cost of production increases with lower feed efficiency, resulting in decreased profits for farmers.


  • Increases in the cost of feed, fertilizer and energy
  • Availability and quality of forages
  • Efficiency of nutrient digestibility
  • Sustainability of ruminant production

Options to Improve Feed Efficiency

On top of nutritionist formulated diets, a way to improve feed efficiency in ruminants is by incorporating feed additives into their diet. Feed additives are substances that can be added to feed to improve the health and performance of animals. When it comes to ruminants, certain feed additives can help increase feed fermentability and digestibility, enhancing overall feed efficiency.

For example, adding specific additives to feed can help break down complex carbohydrates bound to fibre, making them more digestible in the rumen without changing the rumen pH. This allows for more efficient fermentation and energy extraction from the feed in an efficient manner. Other additives can help improve the balance of different types of rumen bacteria, enhancing feed digestion and reducing the risk of metabolic disorders.

Solutions From AGQ

AGQ has now introduced a revolutionary ruminant product: Alka-lac+, a unique free-choice coated antacid that significantly enhances ruminant health and productivity. Alka-lac+ is designed to effectively control subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA) and acidosis in ruminants. By improving the digestion of carbohydrates, Alka-lac+ optimally aligns with protein digestion, thereby increasing microbial protein production. This results in a notable increase in milk yield by up to 10%, a rise in milk fat content by up to 0.5% (absolute value), and a reduction in lameness by 60%.

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Feed cost savings in swine nutrition

Feed costs are the primary financial burden in pork production, emphasizing the importance of maximizing feed digestion and nutrient absorption. Optimal feed utilization is directly tied to the health and functionality of the animal’s digestive system. A well-functioning digestive system ensures that the nutrients in the feed are effectively broken down and absorbed. This not only improves the overall health and growth rate of the pigs but also translates into significant cost savings for farmers. By focusing on the physiological aspect of feed utilization, farmers can achieve a more efficient and cost-effective production process, thereby maximizing their return on investment in feed.

Addressing Leaky Gut in Piglets

Leaky gut syndrome in piglets is marked by increased permeability of the intestinal lining, allowing bacteria and undigested nutrients to pass through the gut barrier. This condition triggers inflammation and damages intestinal cells, enabling pathogens like enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) to attach to the gut lining and produce toxins. These toxins lead to diarrhoea, a significant symptom of this condition (Gresse et al., 2017). Besides diarrhoea, other visible effects include reduced feed intake, weight loss, fever, poor feed efficiency, and uneven growth, which are noticeable to the producer.


  • Increased Intestinal Permeability
  • Inflammation and Cell Damage
  • Diarrhea and Electrolyte Loss
  • Reduced Feed Intake and Weight Loss
  • Favorable Pathogen Growth Environment

Allergens and Pathogens in Gut Health

This syndrome’s severity hinges on both direct and indirect factors. Direct factors comprise allergens and antigens that provoke an inflammatory response, inflaming the gut. Common allergens in piglet feed, like those from soybean meal, and antigens such as mycotoxins and peptidoglycans (from dead gram-positive bacterial cell walls) exacerbate this condition (McCormack et al., 2020).
Indirect factors, on the other hand, create a conducive environment for pathogen growth. These include elements within the gut that provide necessary substrates and conditions favourable for pathogenic proliferation. Addressing these factors is crucial in managing and preventing leaky gut syndrome in piglets, ensuring their health and growth.

Solutions From AGQ

AGQ has introduced a third-generation butyrate solution in the form of tributyrin, tailored for swine health. Specifically addressing critical issues in swine nutrition, such as leaky gut syndrome and pathogen control, NovoSophos enhances gut integrity, combating leaky gut syndrome by reinforcing the intestinal barrier. It’s particularly effective in improving the digestibility of low-quality or damaged proteins, reducing the allergenic and irritating effects of plant-based proteins on the gut lining. Additionally, it aids in controlling pathogens and moderating immune responses to allergens, leading to better nutrient absorption, improved feed efficiency, and overall healthier swine.

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