Source: National Office of Animal Health (NOAH)
Dietary enhancing feed additives (or growth promoters) are products which are incorporated into animal feed to create favourable conditions in the animal's intestine for the digestion of food. They are mainly used to improve feed conversion capability and hence growth rates of the animal without laying down excessive amounts of fat.
Although they are often criticised in the popular press, they actually have positive benefits for the environment. Many consumers not only seem unaware of their benefits, but believe that they can be harmful. So, what are the facts, how can these feed additives benefit not only the producer and consumer of animal products, but the environment as well?
Action of dietary enhancers (digestive enhancers)
The efficiency of an animal's digestion is very dependent on the micro-organisms which live naturally in its digestive tract - some improve digestion, others make it less effective. Added to the feed of pigs, poultry and cattle, dietary enhancers neutralise adverse micro-organisms which live in the animal's gut. They help the intestine absorb more nutrients and water, and so the animal grows well, making the best use of its food. The animal benefits by being less likely to suffer intestinal upset and can cope with changes to its diet without problem. Consumers benefit from the availability of good, wholesome food, tailored to their demands, at a reasonable price.
Practical benefits to the environment
It is important to remember that very small changes in individual animals can add up to huge changes when taken globally. Dietary enhancers benefit the world we live in and the environment in several ways:-
- The use of dietary enhancers means that less food is needed by animals, requiring less farmland.
For example, 8 million pigs fed with a dietary enhancer would require 70,000 tonnes less feed during fattening. (There are approximately 115 million pigs in Europe).
- The healthier intestine of animals fed with dietary enhancers, absorbs more nutrients. Therefore, fewer unused nutrients are lost into the environment, resulting in a cleaner world.
Nitrogen and phosphorus in particular can be a problem, especially when they enter waterways where they can cause eutrophication (the uncontrolled growth of algae, which depletes oxygen supplies harming fish and micro flora).
It has been estimated that in France, Germany and the UK, the removal of dietary enhancers from the diets of pigs, beef cattle and poultry, would result in an increase of 78,000 tonnes of nitrogen and over 15,000 tonnes of phosphorus being released into the environment each year.
- The animal's healthier intestine produces less waste gases into the air.
Animals given dietary enhancers excrete up to 15 per cent less of the 'greenhouse gas' methane and up to 33 per cent less ammonia. As an example, in the same three countries as mentioned above, animals given dietary enhancers are thought to excrete 1,246 million cubic metres less methane per day into the air.
- Animals given dietary enhancers consume less water and excrete less manure with a lower water content. Getting rid of manure can be a major problem and there are strict rules where it may be spread in relation to water courses, human population, etc.
As an example it has been estimated that the use of dietary enhancers in the EU pig herd means a reduction of 7 million cubic metres of waste manure per year (the equivalent of 3,500 Olympic size swimming pools).
The use of digestive enhancers has more benefits than just the production of quality meat and milk. They also have positive benefits to the world we live in. Their use leads to:-
- Less feed required for animal production
- Reduced levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, methane and ammonia entering the environment
- Less water consumption
- Dramatic reductions in manure production
- Reduced requirement for fossil fuels for the transportation of feed and manure
- Less land needed
Swine Nutrition 2nd Edition 2000Edited by Austin J Lewis and Lincoln Lee Southern
Hardback 1,009 pages Approx price: US$150 UK£105 other currencies
A comprehensive reference book covering all aspects of nutrition of pigs. There are 42 chapters contributed by international experts. Including contributions from members of the North Central Regional Committee on Swine Nutrition (NCR-42) and the Committee on Nutritional Systems for Swine to Increase Reproductive Efficiency (S-145)
The contributions begin with general description of swine characteristics and the structure of the pig industry. Descriptions of the various classes of feed nutrients follow and how they are metabolized by hogs, factors affecting their utilization, practical aspects of swine feeding from birth, finishing, through gestation and lactation in sows and the feeding of adult boars. The nutritional aspects of the feedstuffs commonly fed to swine are covered in the following section.
There are chapters on Feed Additives for pigs, including enzymes and probiotics, the environmental impact of swine production and Performance-Enhancing Substances (growth promoters, digestive enhancers). The final chapters of the book are devoted to details of the techniques and technology used in swine nutrition research.
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