Ask Alice: Nutrient density

Posted on 12. Feb, 2016 by in Ask Alice

Q: What do you mean when you say Union Point Custom Feeds’ products are nutritionally dense?

A:  The simplest answer is that the feed I formulate is nutrient-dense so that animals generally eat less.  There are no fillers in the feed we make here, and every ingredient has to earn its place in the formula.

If we want our animals to eat less, the feed they eat needs to be more concentrated so that even if they only eat 3.5 oz. instead of 4.5-5.0 oz. they still get all the materials they need to build an egg.  If a hen has to eat more to get enough materials to build that egg, and she is eating a less concentrated feed, she is also getting a lot of plain old carbohydrates and indigestible fiber as well as the protein she needs. Then we have to be concerned about obesity, its effect on bird health and production, and waste.  If it’s a pig, we want to get the animals the maximum growth and health with the minimum of input (feed) and output (waste).  If it’s a goat, we want the plant material we feed to be easily broken down by the rumen bugs and turn into milk or meat with a minimum of effort on the part of the animal and the pen cleaner alike.

Extra lysine or methionine, (essential amino acids) won’t hurt the animals or take up space; they are part of the feed’s usable protein content.  Extra fillers that take up space in an animal’s digestive tract can be a problem, and extra carbs that turn into fat can be a problem.  So I am confident that a high quality protein content is a good investment in nutrient density, and that way we’re also not dealing with all the extra volume of manure that fillers produce.  This is also true of most other animals with the exception of some special situations like rabbit nutrition.

There’s plenty of published information available on the requirements of layers and other animals that I take into consideration when formulating feeds, but a lot of what I rely on is focused more on making the feed the best it can be, rather than the least that will satisfy a requirement.  Since most poultry research is aimed at production layers, upper limits are reflective of the economic balance between giving the hen what she needs and the number of eggs she can physically lay.  After all, if she has extra lysine and methionine, she still won’t be able to lay two eggs a day or grow a double crop of feathers.  She will either store the rest or poop the rest, and if she stores it, it may be deposited in the potential extra eggs she lays at the end of the year’s laying cycle or in better body condition resulting in a longer laying lifetime.  Our goals are different from the goals in a commercial layer operation, where birds are rotated through on a schedule that assigns no value to the hen’s long term productivity and assumes when the birds are slaughtered as “spent hens” on a date planned before they were hatched that they really are worn out.  With our system providing enough essential amino acids we know we have given her the opportunity to perform at her best.

The same is true of pigs and other meat animals.  Rapid healthy growth and less manure are goals we can all agree on.  Dairy animals, horses and other livestock all benefit from concentrated, nutrient-dense feed.  Purchasing, transporting, storing, feeding out our animals’ feed and then removing their manure cost us both time and money.  If we can achieve better results with less feed consumed we win all around.

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