Innovation with Livestock Feed: The Future of Animal Source Foods
This is a follow-on to the March 14, 2019, Agrilnks article ‘Better Livestock Feed, Better Animal Source Foods.’
As I wrote in my previous piece, livestock feed safety and infrastructure can be a pathway to food security with the right market systems development approaches. Today, let’s discuss how to build that pathway through research, innovation and, of course, private sector engagement, especially around integrating the newest livestock feed innovations and making them work on a global scale. Growing populations need the nutrition and economic benefits that livestock offer, but scaling up livestock also has to be sustainable – for the health and safety of the planet and its people.
Research and resulting new livestock feed innovation
Antimicrobial use in livestock feed started over 70 years ago to treat diseases, boost growth rates and reduce mortality rates. Antibiotic intake of animals that we eat, as well as the resulting antibiotic residue in animal source foods, is recognized as a cause of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in human populations. In 2016, the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy recommended to phase out the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animals.
Research and commercial introduction of probiotic feed additives is demonstrating a viable alternative to reducing antimicrobial overuse in livestock and reducing the spread of AMR, particularly in developing communities. Livestock feed probiotics and pre-biotics have demonstrated a similar growth response and increased sickness immunity as those who historically had antibiotic growth promoters added to their feed.
Innovation means change
However, this innovation comes while there are still capacity needs in many parts of the world. For example, the feed manufacturing value-chain actors (millers, agro-dealers and farmers) will need some upgrades. Feed mills lack the knowledge and training to adapt and formulate new types of additives, such as probiotics. The same is true of agro-dealer and farmers, as they may lack the know-how to effectively use such new products, and farmers tend to have a high aversion to risk associated with new products. The ‘prove it to me first attitude’ must be considered when introducing new products that will affect their bottom line, especially in parts of the world where the bottom line is having enough nutritious food for the family or not. Working with and alongside people to introduce these innovations and others is critical for cultural and behavioral shifts toward improvements for people’s nutrition and economic standing.
Probiotic feed additives could be the next disruptive technology, which means that there are no regulatory standards that they fit under in many countries. Some countries have standards for feed quality and antimicrobial use and more countries are forbidding the use of antimicrobials in animal feeds. While these are positive steps forward, government regulatory agencies will need to create harmony with the Codex Alimentarius standard; products which meet the codex can be marketed in multiple countries more easily. Guidelines for the use of pro & pre-biotic use in livestock feeds need to be developed for each country.
How this disruptive change could be guided
Start with the feed manufacturers/millers as a private sector engagement.
• Work with miller associations and vertically-integrated commercial farming operations to reach the progressive operations who represent the right-side of the bell curve. Train these businesses on proper mixing and packaging procedures. If a new product is not introduced to the market with quality control measures it is introducing the opportunity to fail.
• These commercial livestock producers then take on their normal role as industry leaders who talk about the use of new products and how they make more money using them. As more feed mills create products, then the small producers will become interested via information reinforced by local agro-dealers and veterinarians who have received appropriate training.
Promote the improved stewardship of antibiotics.
• A significant push has gone into the capacity development of paravets, community animal health workers, community livestock workers, and others over the last decade. Now that many more livestock owners have access to services and inputs, there is a need to upgrade the quality of the training activities so that the industry can get out in front of the emerging threats associated with the overuse of antibiotics. This is not a ‘do not use antibiotics’ upgrade, it is a reinforcement of potential risks and an emphasis on improved management practices upgrade – not one or the other. A well-fed animal with clean water and disease control via vaccines will require fewer applications of antimicrobials, after all.
Introduce government guidelines via the private sector.
• Allow associations to create guidelines which protect the new line of feed additives for quality and provide cost-effective alternatives to the use of antimicrobials. Allow for a timeline to convert to the new guidelines that match the investment needs of the industry. This timeline may also allow for a phased approach to product introduction needs, such as starting with poultry or swine.
Handled in a timely and through manner, probiotic feed additives can be introduced to many countries whose growing population is demanding higher quantities of animal source foods without increasing the levels of antibiotic residue.