At a time of major change for livestock production a growing number of producers are making strides to stay ahead of the curve on everything from new medicated feed rules to animal care standards, by taking advantage of new integrated management strategies that include a stronger focus on advanced nutrition approaches.
"Cross-disciplinary approaches are the way of the future," says Darryl Lewis, president of Nutrition Partners, a nutrition company serving swine, poultry and dairy sectors across Canada.
"Our industries are evolving. When we need to make a change in one area, such as a shift away from medicated feed, there is no one solution. Health, nutrition and management are all inter-related and must work together. At the same time, nutrition is becoming a bigger focus in that mix representing strong innovations and opportunities for improvement."
Partnership mentality drives progress
Nutritions and veterinarians, for example, must work more closely together, he says. However the key to success is that producers themselves must also have a hands-on role in working with both groups.
"Every operation is different and there is no one-size-fits-all. The producer must be a direct partner in deciding what will work best. You can have the best health and nutrition strategies in the world but if they don't fit with management they won't work. The future is about teamwork and alignment among everything that goes into production."
Nutrition Partners has focused for many years on keeping one step ahead of industry needs and today its model stands as an example of where the trends are headed.
The company philosophy is that success requires partnership. That's how the Nutrition Partners team approaches customer relationships. Nutrition Partners is also a part of Poultry Partners, which is a collaborative effort between veterinarians, nutritionists and industry experts that provides cross-disciplinary strategies in partnership with customer operations.
Meeting today's challenges
The model Nutrition Partners has championed has proven particularly beneficial as a perfect storm of consumer, market and industry trends drive a wave of modernization and sophistication across all livestock production sectors.
Nutrition Partners offers vitamin and mineral knowledge and support while also providing leading premix options. But the key to its approach is working across disciplines to help operations design the best use of these options as part of broader strategies that optimize production in alignment with marketplace demands.
"Consumers have moved past the grocery store and have become increasingly interested in food production," says Lewis. "At the same time industry continues to find better ways of doing things. We have better knowledge and options than ever to meet what the marketplace wants and that's to our advantage. It’s important we as an industry show consumers how we do what we do and why we do it. We have to accept incoming changes and market indicators instead of putting on the blinders."
Strong advances in nutrition are an example that industry has the power to innovate and meet today's challenges, he says.
Feed and nutrient formulations are increasingly tailored to meet antibiotic-free, ionophore-free, elite level quality control standards.
Nutrition strategies are increasingly sophisticated to support animals in all situations at all stages of life, incorporating benefits beyond basic nutrition.
Bio-based feed additives ranging from prebiotics and probiotics to functional fatty acids, enzymes and yeast technologies are opening new doors to health, performance and profitability. All are providing fresh ways to benefit both the animals and producers while also fitting what consumers want.
Pulling in the same direction
"As farm nutritionists, veterinarians and producers themselves continue to collaborate more closely, the producer’s livestock programs should become that much more focused and successful," says Lewis. "The healthier the animals are, the better they eat, the healthier they grow. It’s really that simple. I always say about 80 per cent of what goes on at a farm is related to proper management. Now, as we seek overall improvement we as an industry are also tasked with bringing the remaining 20 per cent up to a new standard. Nutrition has certainly emerged as a big area of opportunity, but we need multi disciplines pulling in the same direction to reach our full potential."
The Nutrition Partners poultry team is a partnership between Nutrition Partners and Poultry Health Services. Led by poultry nutritionist Shawn Fairbairn, the partnership provides a comprehensive health and nutrition offering for Canadian poultry producers.
Preparing for the new rules on antimicrobials
Arguably no change looms larger at the moment than the shift away from medicated feed and preventative antimicrobial use.
New rules as part of the now fully implemented Veterinary Feed Directive in the U.S. are having widespread impact.
In Canada, the major phase of new rules on antimicrobials, including increased veterinary oversight and prescription-only antimicrobial use, come into effect Dec. 1, 2018.
"This has been something producers have been preparing for, but we are rapidly approaching that deadline," says Lewis. "With many of our customers this has been something we have been working on for more than five years. All changes -- whether they are industry changes such as regulations to housing setups, bio-security, reduced antibiotic use and greater animal welfare -- to a certain degree each come with a price tag. But with the right strategies this price can become a good investment rather than just a cost. Today we have the capability to make the necessary changes while also improving overall efficiency and production results."
More about the trends is available in a feature article: "Fresh pathways to livestock innovation and profitability," and a related Q&A: "Advancing the Industry." Learn more at www.nutritionpartners.ca.
Cross-disciplinary nutrition model helps producers stay ahead of the curve
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