We caught up with Novus’ Ricardo Esquerra, senior R&D manager for Latin America and Africa, at IPPE last month to hear more about work the company is doing as part of a research group looking at industry challenges when using trace minerals. He was presenting on the subject at the International Poultry Scientific Forum, held during the trade show.
Novus, he said, started a consumer advocacy committee (CAC) to try, through research, to find new ways to optimise broiler production in Brazil.
It provides customers with the opportunity to discuss key issues that affect the broiler industry there. A group of approximately 25 members, including Novus customers and industry specialists, attempt to work together to address a common problem
The research helps the company stay topical on industry matters, said Esquerra. “The moment we stop being relevant to the industry we’re done as a company, so we have found the CAC is a very interesting tool to direct our research efforts,” he added.
Additionally, the project has allowed for connections with universities and educators, he said. And it provides for the chance to align student research work with relevant problems in animal production.
One of the larger projects the group has tackled examined the relation between profitability and nutrient density, including when feeding methionine, he added.
The CAC is now in the second year of research on the use of zinc and copper and mineral nutrition in poultry feed, said Esquerra.
Zinc and copper interplay in poultry
“Zinc and copper have a strong influence in many parameters, you can improve carcass quality; reduce discarded meat; you can improve immunity; and you can improve performance, actually you can improve gut health,” he said. “It is overwhelming the amount of benefits that you can have.”
The group has been looking at what causes the benefits and how they can be maximized, he said.
Similarly, there needed to be more information on the levels of micro minerals in feed ingredients being used, he said. Those levels may offer opportunities or cause problems depending how they interact.
“We have seen that [with] zinc, for example, the difference between zinc levels in soybean meal could be 40ppm up to 140ppm – it’s crazy,” said Esquerra. “The problem is that people feed 80ppm of zinc sulfate and what happens if your basal diet is very high in zinc? Your toxicity level, right away is there. We saw it in our trials.”
In those cases, adding low levels of zinc sulfate meant that broilers started to have poorer performance, he said. But, at other times, adding the minerals didn’t hinder production.
However, most producers don’t have the ability to reformulate their premix every time their basic feed ingredients change, he said.
“It’s not going to happen, because people put these minerals together in a premix, you don’t formulate to every single one of them,” he said. “You see problems of performance in the field and you don’t know where that comes from. It could come from using inorganic forms of zinc, for example, or copper, or whatever, and you have very high levels of basal micro-minerals.”
Now the research group is working to put together a set of mineral levels from different soil samples to provide more information, he said. “The big challenge is that the levels of micro minerals in soybean meal, corn and so on change due to soil conditions so go figure what is the level of zinc in every soil sample – so we are developing that information.”
The Novus committee is also looking at ways to prevent mineral contamination in premixes by heavy metals such as cadmium and lead.
The work also tracks what happens to performance if there is contamination or where those elements are deposited in the bird, he said.