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Estimating the Nutritional Values of Raw Materials to Ensure Satisfactory Growth Performance in Animal Farming

A feed mainly consists of a mixture of raw materials. It is designed to satisfy an animal’s requirements, depending on this animal’s physiological stage or the market it is aimed at. Precise knowledge of the components making up that feed is essential for quantifying each of its ingredients. The ultimate goal is to achieve the technical and economic targets set by the market. In this context, how can one most appropriately estimate the nutritional value of these raw materials? What levels of energy and digestibility should be considered? How can one optimise the raw material values in one's formulation software?

Why is it necessary to estimate the nutritional values of the raw materials composing the feed?

Optimising each feed "recipe" or its "formulation" means that strict nutritional and economic constraints are respected. The feed miller offers a feed which must be sold at a reasonable price. This feed must also match the animal’s requirements depending on its species, its age, its physiological stage, the final market it is intended for. It is essential that the raw materials used are accurately estimated so that under-performance (underevaluation) and economic waste (over-evaluation) are avoided. An appropriate estimate is a key factor for formulating nutritionally-adequate diets. This whole optimisation process should also allow saving money on feed costs.

How can we characterise the nutritional values of raw materials in the matrix formulation?

Each raw material is estimated by means of chemical and nutritional criteria whose values are called nutrients. This characterisation is based on the analytical evaluation and expertise drawn from the relevant scientific literature and research data.
The standard analyses conducted in laboratory are meant to provide the chemical values for each raw material considered according to parameters such as moisture, protein, fat, fiber, minerals... For a more thorough understanding of the composition of these raw materials, in-depth analyses need to be carried out. Aminograms are thus meant to provide the values for each of the amino acid considered.
The level of energy and digestibility also need to be properly determined (energy, amino acids ...). These parameters are defined through calculations and equations stemming from the nutritional expertise. This knowledge results from the compilation and synthesis of many experimental tests that have either been conducted in experimental stations or in farms, on all species: poultry, rabbits, pigs and ruminants ... To do so, results from the digestibility trials must be compared to the results obtained within actual rearing conditions.This stage is meant to validate the estimated initial values. Some nutrients can also be calculated via predictive equations. These have been established through the compilation of institutional research, reference tables and experiences on livestock as described above.
All this work, derived from the matrix expertise, will lead to define nutritional norms for each species. When it comes to a specific species or subspecies, we can currently formulate feed based on the reference point of different energy systems (digestible energy, metabolisable energy, net). The amino acid profile for these species can now also accurately be assessed. This overall accumulated knowledge on raw materials, also referred to as ‘precision nutrition”, is ultimately designed to match the physiological requirements of animals with the nutrient content of the available ingredients. The raw materials thus characterised will eventually make up the "table" or “raw material matrix”. Depending on raw material origin, the manufacturing process, the supplier, the production site, the content of this matrix formulation is likely to vary substantially.

With an experience of over 50 years in animal nutrition, experts from the TECHNA Group assist feed manufacturers and actors of the feed industry in their knowledge and choosing of raw materials, as follows:

  • Studies of technical-economic interest ;
  • Choice of suppliers ;
  • Criteria to be considered for laboratory analysis.  
  • Level of incorporation depending on the species, production targets...

To learn more, please contact our experts!

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