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News from Biochem


On Wednesday 6th June 2018 Biochem organised a seminar in the Netherlands inviting participants from the Belgian and Dutch feed industry. The theme of the afternoon was “Young Animals the Agricultural Athletes of Tomorrow”. The intention of the afternoon was to get feed professionals together and highlight, from a multidisciplinary perspective, the various challenges piglets and calves face during their early stages of life.

The first invited speaker was Annamarie Thomas, Annamarie is a former Dutch ice speed skater. She participated during several winter Olympics and is a multiple world champion ice speed skater. Nowadays Annamarie trains and advices young upcoming athletes. Annamarie explains that several key components are required to become a professional athlete and future medal winner. Talent, lots of training, a good mindset and lifestyle are prerequisites for this. Next to these Annamarie recognizes the influence of parents and trainer as well as proper nutrition on the youngsters. Becoming the gold medallist of the future is hard work and requires making sacrifices, but in the end the fun has to remain.

The scientific programme was kicked off by Prof. dr. Henk Hogeveen, professor of Animal Health Management at Wageningen University and Research. Henk describes the challenges a farmer faces when rearing calves, all from the perspective of the economist. The first challenge is   that youngstock rearing is only one of many management areas the farmer has to control. In science little data is available on youngstock rearing, therefore various models are required to simulate everyday practice. Successfully rearing a calf to heifer costs the dairy farmer approx. €1.540 per heifer. Excluding labour from this equation results in rearing costs of €1.041 per heifer. Excluding economic evaluation of the barn €1.360 per heifer. When both are excluded rearing costs are €861 per heifer.  A large proportion of the rearing costs are attributed to feed, €697 per heifer. Henk shows that farmers are notoriously underestimating their rearing costs. Focus on reducing age of first calving may save the farmer €33-66 per heifer per month reduced. To ensure young animals are the agricultural athletes of tomorrow Henk states that the easy choices should be addressed first. Ensure a proper start by providing early colostrum, proper hygiene and good feed. Timely insemination based on development (weight) and not on age. Most farmers believe all new interventions are too costly and therefore do nothing, economic arguments are necessary to counterweigh these believes. Nevertheless, solely economic arguments are rarely enough to persuade the farmers.

Dr. Bas Swildens highlights the challenges piglets face during the rearing period from the perspective of the veterinarian. As a veterinarian Bas is affiliated to Utrecht University and he has been training veterinary students for more than 20 years. The role of the veterinarian is to act as a “coach” to the farmer. The most important health issues found in piglets nowadays are, streptococcus infections, low weight piglets and diarrhoea (induced by corona, rota, clostridium etc.). Several key components were indicated as essential prior to and post weaning to ensure healthy piglets. Prior to weaning: Colostrum uptake (>150 ml per day), age of weaning (>25 days), feed intake (>500 gr per piglet per day, water intake (learning how to use drinking nipple) and replace piglets only with a filled stomach. Post weaning the following components were most important: sufficient feed and drinking places (at least 1 for every 10 animals), ensure feed is present, climate (m3 per piglet, air quality, speed of ventilation) and hygiene. The conclusion made by Bas was that it is worthwhile to invest in pampering the piglets during the first weeks of their development as this will ensure healthy and good performing piglets in later stages of life which are able to withstand the challenges of modern husbandry systems.

Peter van Beek, product manager at Nukamel a Dutch milk replacer company explains the vision and approach of Nukamel to rearing young calves. The most important aspect to producing a milk replacer is the quality of the raw materials. The selection of which material to include is key for the performance of calves. An example of this is the inclusion of dairy ingredients which received a low-heat treatment, this ensures optimal nutrient availability. Using a fresh product allows for a better availability of digestible dairy proteins. Nukamel encourages farmers to use the accelerated calf growth program. The benefits of this programme include a deceased time to breeding, increased efficiency of weight gain and first lactation milk yield is increased as well as health. Nevertheless, accelerated growth should only be considered when key conditions are in place but allows for a long-term increase in performance. An accelerated growth program should be implemented with a high protein calf milk replacer composed of raw ingredients of high nutritional quality.

Final speaker of the day was Birgit Keimer, product manager pro- and prebiotics at Biochem explaining the benefits of TechnoYeast®, an innovative hydrolysed yeast product. Birgit emphasized that feed intake during the first days after weaning is a key factor for successful piglet rearing. A reduced feed intake negatively affects immunity, gut morphology, inflammation of intestinal tissue, diarrhoea incidence and growth performance. TechnoYeast® has a strong umami taste which is preferred by piglets and thereby encourages feed intake. Next to this TechnoYeast® delivers highly digestible protein, prebiotic effects through the presence of Beta Glucans and MOS, nucleic acids as a source of nucleotides, of vitamins and minerals. A recent trial performed by Biochem in Denmark on weaned piglets showed that the inclusion of 1% of TechnoYeast® can partially or fully substitute 3% of blood plasma in the diet, preventing the typical drop in feed intake when blood plasma is excluded from the diet and delivering additional positive effects on intestinal physiology. In short TechnoYeast® provides young animals a head start as a functional and highly digestible protein source, taste enhancement for improved and stable feed intake and prebiotic and immune-modulatory effects from yeast cell wall components.

On the whole we are looking back on a successful and interesting seminar in which the various challenges young animals face was discussed from a multidisciplinary perspective. Biochem offers a complete range of high-quality solutions for young animals. Offers are always based on a scientific background and take into account the various challenges which are at stake on the farm, feed mill or premixer.

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