The Premier Atlas contains more than 260 raw materials and 40,000 nutrients. This edition also takes account of 59 new ingredients.
Premier Nutrition’s pig director, Mick Hazzledine, who led the update of the feed matrix, said, from a performance point of view, with feed conversion improving all the time in pigs and poultry, the company looks to keep on top of nutrient values:
“It is our bible of raw material values that we redo every four years, it gets bigger and bigger each update.
“As a commercial nutritionist there are two aspects to your job. What you are trying to do is define a certain, consistent level of nutrients to the animal whether that be a pig, chicken or ruminants. You need to understand your raw materials in depth. And that is what we are doing with the Atlas – the first part defines the nutrients in the raw materials and the second part focuses on how many nutrients you need for a growing pig, a chicken or a cow.”
It is a significant undertaking for the company:
“We use our quality control data over the intervening four years, we review international papers, we work with commercial companies such as Evonik because it does a lot of amino acid analysis, then we summarize all that in the publication, which we make available to our clients, whether they are feed mills, or farmers or those working in academia.”
The extensive guide covers a comprehensive analysis of ingredients for cereals, roots, legumes, by-products and more.
Raw material processing
Accompanying text in the feed matrix defines how the raw materials are produced because the nutrient values of feed ingredients can very often depend on how the product is processed, particularly when it comes to rapeseed, soy and dry distillers’ grains: “To fully understand a raw material you need to understand what the grind, soak, enzyme, distillation process is,” he told us.
Premier Nutrition has business globally, with the result being that the Atlas has had input from many regions:
“We have had input from Australia; we are doing more in Asia now and so we have had requests for [data on] krill meal, for example.
“A lot of the data on maize is American data; we have had some interesting debates on distillers' dried grains with soluble (DDGS), which we are using in the UK now, and which is imported from the US. But that raw material is so variable, there are so many processors turning maize into bioethanol in the US and worldwide. Yes, we have a spec for maize distillers’ and a description of how it is manufactured. But when it comes to buying that product, you almost need to contact the factory, and that is what we do for major clients.”
For the first time, the Premier Atlas includes data on novel alternative ingredients such as insect proteins, algae and seaweed products.
“We are starting to get numbers coming through on totally new raw materials. I think there are four or five different insect products in Atlas this time round. It is still early days, we have not got full analysis of those products and neither do those who are producing them, but we can update [that data] as we go along as we have an eAtlas now as well.
“People who register for the book can download the eAtlas and get regular updates. If you take the example of insect meal, even since we published the latest Atlas, there have been a couple of papers released that are quite interesting, and so that data deserves an update, and we are in a position to do that now.”
Those regular updates might also take account of a recent trend, whereby the protein levels of imported soybean meal (SBM) are tending to decrease. “That decline party reflects the fact most of our soybean meal is coming from South America, and not North America. It is a different kind of bean, the yields are up, and as the yields increase, the protein levels tend to drop, and it is the same in wheat, and in barley.”
The company has also been doing quite a lot in the areas of phosphorus, partly because it is quite an expensive nutrient and there is better digestibility data now on phosphorus.
“Clearly, we are challenged increasingly now to reduce phosphorus excretion. Generally, the phosphorus levels in wheat, feed wheat and barley are lower than they used to be, reflecting yields and probably fertilizer application by arable farmers.”
Crystalline amino acids
The matrix also details the levels of 17 digestible AAs, for both pigs and poultry, in over 200 feed ingredients.
Technological developments since the last update include the development of new synthetic or crystalline forms of essential amino acids. These have the potential to upgrade lower quality materials and lower the crude protein levels of monogastric diets, said Hazzledine.
“We use lysine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan and, more recently, valine in monogastric diets, but the potential for isoleucine, arginine and other amino acids is looking very promising. They are within the Atlas, and it does mean we can formulate even lower protein feeds and use less soy. But the more you go down, the more you use those crystalline amino acids, the more you must understand, in detail, the raw materials you are handling and the nutrient requirements [of animals].”
One of the big challenges going forward, he said, is that so much of nutrition is based on university trials, on healthy pigs, and chickens.
“So as nutritionists, we are very good at feeding healthy animals. But, in reality of course, the health of all our animals is always compromised to a greater or lesser extent. So, I think, going forward, the big area will be how you adapt that nutrition to animals that are fighting disease, and have an immune response.
“We are already learning that some of the requirements in relation to amino acids, the B vitamins, and zinc are quite different when an animal has an immune response, and that has quite profound effects. It can be anything from a direct disease challenge, a vaccination, moving pigs into dirty buildings, etc., but the animal, as a result, will have reduced growth, it will move into a defensive mode, kicking off the immunity response, and that will have major impact on nutrient requirements – we know some of that, but we have quite a bit to learn still.”
Regulatory developments around the reduction of copper in EU piglet feed and the ruling banning the use of zinc oxide from June 2022, again in piglet diets, will only add to the challenge, he said.
“It is about drilling down further into intricacies of these nutrient requirements, but you can’t drill down until you know the basics of the raw materials you are dealing with.”