As farming operations around the world fortify resources and strategies to maintain a strong, high-quality food supply amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, a driving force to help protect livestock and keep efficient and profitable production flowing has emerged in the form of newly advanced feed science technology.
“Long before the pandemic, we had seen the beginnings of a major shift in focus toward animal feed and nutrition as a top area of opportunity, particularly related to the potential for further science and technology based innovations in these areas,” said Rob Patterson, technical director of Canadian Bio-Systems (CBS Inc.), a bio-based feed technology company.
“This was for several reasons, including, very prominently, the need to help animal agriculture transition to a new era with greater efficiency and customization demands, coupled with increasing restrictions on conventional tools such as antimicrobials. We see the pace of this trend now greatly accelerating in the face of the pandemic as more producers embrace opportunities to innovate and keep production-sustaining profits flowing,” he said.
The trend also comes amid growing signs of a "pandemic reset" mindset among consumers, who are becoming less transfixed on niche attributes, CBS Inc. said.
“As an animal nutritionist who also closely follows the human nutrition side, it has been very interesting to watch the public conversation in recent weeks,” said Sabrina Zettell, nutrition and technical service manager with CBS Inc. “We are hearing a lot less talk about former buzz trends like plant based and much more focus on appreciating the fundamental yet immense value of simply having a resilient supply of high-quality, healthy, nutritious, cost-effective food, including high-protein, nutrition-rich poultry, swine and ruminant products.
“As part of this, we are also seeing a more demonstrated and growing appreciation for the farmers and the broader system that produces our food, including for the ongoing innovations that are helping us to protect, maintain and continually modernize and strengthen this system,” Zettell added.
Feed technology advancing rapidly
Both within and outside agriculture, there is growing awareness of the links that bind animal feed and nutrition with animal health, wellness, welfare and productivity, which, in turn, connect with and support human health, Zettell said. “Natural immunity in particular is becoming a high-profile concept during the pandemic. People are making the connection that high-quality, nutritious food is not only generally essential to human well-being but also specifically to supporting a high level of natural immunity to disease threats,” she said.
Although no direct threats to livestock from COVID-19 have been shown, the concept of supporting natural immunity is equally important in food animals and, in turn, to the food supply, CBS Inc. sales and marketing director Mark Peters noted. “Part of the reason we’re seeing the growing focus on science-based feed and nutrition innovation within agriculture is the rising awareness that it helps address natural immunity within the animals [and] also, more broadly, because it is one of the few areas that can check all the boxes that positively impact efficient and profitable production,” he said.
Embracing innovation to meet challenges
The drive to adopting the latest advances is accelerating rapidly, Peters said. “We’re hearing a consistent message from our team, partners and customers around the world. Everyone is recognizing it has never been more important to embrace innovation," he said. "We need to take advantage of all the latest technologies at our disposal in agriculture. In the area of animal feed and nutrition, the pace of advancement has been particularly high. That’s good news for our sector as we face the challenges of the current environment.”
CBS Inc. operations director Krisjan Jones said, “The benefits of the latest feed technology cover a wide range, from supporting animal health, wellness and welfare to quality and efficiency. This ultimately boosts the sustainability and profitability of livestock operations, which, in turn, supports the food supply chain as a whole. All of these advantages are always important but become even more essential during challenging times like the world is now experiencing.”
Making farm-gate difference
The expanding momentum of the past several years has boosted the rate of adoption of numerous enhanced feed technology innovations across poultry, swine and ruminant sectors, including multi-carbohydrase enzyme technology, enhanced yeast technology, functional fatty acids and phytogenetics and probiotics, CBS Inc. said.
“All of the advancements mean more options for producers that truly make a difference at the farm-gate level, benefiting the animals as well as the farmers and their customers,” CBS Inc. founder and president Owen Jones added.