Health maintenance and disease avoidance are critical requirements in the lives of both animals and humans. It is widely recognised that nutrition not only determines growth but is closely allied to good animal health. A nutrition-based health approach to animal production is important because healthy animals will be economically more productive and produce safer food. Moreover, a nutrition-based health approach is attractive to consumers and to regulatory authorities where there is increasing concern over the use of antibiotics and other drugs in animals raised for food. If animals can be kept in good health through a nutritional strategy then clearly less antibiotics and drugs will be needed.
The primary function of animal feed is clearly to provide sufficient nutrients to meet the nutritional requirements for development and growth of the target animal. The appropriate nutrients and their required levels needed to support animal growth and productivity are now well understood. However, now we need to extend the scope of nutrition. Animal feeds need to be designed to encompass growth and development as well as supporting health maintenance and disease avoidance.
In practical reality feed is more than just a collection of nutrients, but consists of an enormous collection of different molecules which can be classified into two major groups; NUTRIENTS and NUTRICINES. Nutrients are the usually recognised components of feed such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. Nutricines are components of feeds which exert a beneficial effect upon health rather than contribute directly to nutrition. Important nutricines are; antioxidants, emulsifiers, enzymes, flavours, organic acids, prebiotics, probiotics. Some feed components have a dual function such as vitamin E for example, which is an antioxidant nutricine as well as vitamin nutrient. Similarly, organic acids can be an energy source as nutrients and have beneficial antimicrobial effects as nutricines.
A major challenge in a nutrition-based health approach is to develop a range of nutricines for health maintenance and disease avoidance in various animal species. This requires an understanding of the health problems and nutritional requirements of the target species.
Bio-Energy Ingredients chose to focus on the dairy cow. The nutritional needs are well known, but nevertheless dairy cows suffer from many metabolic diseases, particularly during the transition phase. A major problem for the transition cow is maintenance of a suitable rumen pH. This is critical for optimal feed utilization and for cow health and welfare.
In response to this challenge Bio-Energy Ingredients developed a specific nutricine, Glycal Forte® , which is a calcium stabilized glycerol complex. Glycal Forte® has an inherent nutrient value as an energy source and a calcium source. However, Glycal Forte® has much greater value as a nutricine because it is very effective in managing rumen pH which is important in the transition dairy cow. Glycal Forte® is a classic example of a nutricine, which is a feed component that has beneficial effects for animal health and welfare.
Given the current concerns about antibiotics and other drugs used in modern animal production it is clear that a nutrition-based health approach is the only way forward. Modern animal husbandry must now focus much more intensively upon developing appropriate nutricines for health maintenance and disease avoidance. This will expand the scope of animal feeds beyond simply supplying nutrients. Nutrition-based health and the judicious application of various nutricines such as Glycal Forte® is the future.