According to projections by the United Nations, the world population will grow to 9,8 billion people by 2050 (Figure 1). The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculated that 60% more food will have to be produced by 2050 than in 2007.

The current dilemma we are facing is that one out of every five children below age five experiences stunting and 11% of the adult population goes hungry every day. Furthermore, 39% of the world population is overweight and 13% is obese.

Figure 1: Population of the world estimated by the United Nations (2017).

The agricultural sector must strive to plant crops that will produce more grain, while using less water and fertiliser. Animal breeding and selection must focus on meat, milk and egg production optimisation, using less feed and/or grazing, while nutritionists have to formulate feed that will efficiently utilise this genetic potential.

A more efficient product

One of the biggest challenges nutritionists face is to accurately determine the nutritional value of a raw material intended for use as animal feed. None of the raw materials used to feed animals are 100% digestible. Some of these raw materials are suitable for use in some species and not in others.

Using and developing technology to timeously and accurately determine these factors, will allow the nutritionist to formulate diets that will deliver a more efficient product. This could be as simple as using a heat treatment in soya bean processing to deactivate the trypsin inhibitor, or something as complex as using nutrigenomics to evaluate gene expression.

The focus of research has shifted to using alternative products instead of using antibiotics and antibiotic growth promoters. Scientists need to understand the way these products interact with each other and how they work within the metabolic system. Studying the microbiome within the digestive tract of the animal enables scientists to determine how different products change the microbial population in the digestive system.

This data enables scientists to evaluate the efficacy of products toward growth promotion, disease prevention and/or treatment as well as immune modulation. Table 1 illustrates some of these product groups and their use within the poultry industry. Similarly, these products are used in calf rearing, dairy cows, beef cattle and swine as antibiotic replacements.

Table 1: Alternative to antibiotic use in poultry. (Talkington et al. 2017)

Growth promotion Disease prevention
Probiotics X X
Prebiotics X X
Organic acids X X
In-feed enzymes X X
Phytochemicals X
Copper, zinc and other heavy metals X
Immune modulators X
Vaccines X


Enzymes are used in most monogastric diets across the world. The enzymes used are either phytase enzymes or non-starch polysaccharide (NSP) enzymes. They target the indigestible fraction of the diet by either hydrolysing the phosphorous bound by phytate, or the destruction of the cell walls to improve energy and amino acid availability.

Gene modulation

These enzymes have the ability to eliminate the anti-nutritive properties in some raw materials. One of the most commonly used enzyme technologies is the use of phytase enzymes. These enzymes predominantly improve the availability of dietary phytate phosphorous and reduce the dietary phosphorous excretion.

One of the latest technologies in animal nutrition is nutrigenomics – the study to understand the nutritional effect on gene expression. It is widely used in human nutrition to understand biochemical and metabolic pathways in response to certain dietary treatments.

In animal nutrition, gene modulation is used to improve animal health and feed conversion. Using this technology allows scientists to monitor gene expression within the animal when it is exposed to different dietary treatments and products.

For more information, contact Nutri Feeds on 018 011 8888 or visit – Ernest King, national technical manager, Nutri Feeds