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Plant-based ingredients offer a route to enhanced livestock health – while improving outcomes for planet and people

Posted: Mar 22, 2024 3 minute read Irene Trigueros

In 2019 the World Health Organization declared antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as one of the top 10 global public health threats to humanity. That year, deaths associated with bacterial AMR were estimated to reach 1.27 million globally. If left unchecked, this figure is predicted to hit 10 million by 2050.

These warnings have contributed to successful reductions in antibiotic use, not least in the animal agriculture sector. In the ten years leading up to 2021, global sales of antibiotics for veterinary use were down by over one-quarter, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH). Some major livestock-producing countries in Europe and the United Kingdom cut sales by more than 50 percent.

Legislation is helping to consolidate these advances and further reduce reliance on antibiotics in farming. The EU’s 2022 Veterinary Medicines Regulation prohibited the routine use of antibiotics in livestock, preventing the use of these powerful medicines to compensate for inadequate animal husbandry or poor hygiene.

Falling in line with new rules has proved harder in some European markets than others. Before 2022, farmers in Poland, Italy and Spain, where ‘group’ antibiotic treatments at the herd rather than individual level were prevalent, used up to 20 times more antibiotics per livestock unit than the lowest users, which included Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The continuing challenge for farmers in the EU – and elsewhere – is not just how to keep animals healthy without resorting to antibiotics; it’s how to prioritise health without making sacrifices in other areas.

Safe food begins with safe feed

A more holistic approach to livestock welfare is needed. High-quality feed with key nutrients and beneficial ingredients can play an important role in animal welfare and comes with other benefits such as promoting growth and boosting productivity.

For example, lauric acid – a medium chain fatty acid (MCFA) which is derived from palm kernel oil and coconut oil – has potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that support immune function. Lauric acid has proved to be effective against bacteria such as Streptococci and Staphylococci, whilst also improving gut health, which provides material benefits for producers in the form of better nutrient absorption and improved feed conversion rate.

Similarly, alpha-glycerol monolaurates, created from a combination of lauric acid and glycerine, offer bactericidal effects around ten times more potent than their corresponding free fatty acids. Thanks to their fast lymphatic absorption, they have a systemic effect which goes beyond the gut to deliver benefits for the whole animal.

These ingredients, whether used alone or in combination, can control infections and improve intestinal health, resulting in improved production rates in poultry and swine.

Improving outcomes for the planet through sustainably sourced feed

In addition to functional benefits, plant-based feed inputs can contribute to a more sustainable animal agriculture sector.

Close to half of global greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production are linked to the production and processing of animal feed. Addressing these inputs is an important step to reduce the sector’s overall sustainability impact.

Sustainably-produced palm oil is the highest-yielding vegetable oil per hectare and represents a more efficient use of land than alternative feed inputs such as maize and soy. Indeed, the palm industry has taken significant steps towards eradicating deforestation from its supply chains. Data from Trase Insights shows that deforestation linked to palm oil production in Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, is at its lowest level for a decade, while palm oil production has increased.

This industry-wide focus on tackling deforestation also puts the palm oil industry on a strong footing to comply with the 2024 deadline for implementation of the EU Deforestation Regulation. Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) has worked hard to create traceable, sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil supply chains that support growers and their communities in the palm oil sector, achieving 98% traceability to plantation across our Indonesian palm supply at the end of 2022.

Collaborating for success

Collaboration between farmers, scientists and industry is essential to continue to enhance livestock health – while improving outcomes for the planet and people – and to support sustainable and resilient food systems.

GAR’s tailored animal nutrition products, under the GoNutri brand, use sustainably-sourced palm and palm kernel oil that meets global traceability and sustainability standards. As part of GAR’s integrated supply chain, GoNutri is also GMP+ certified, meaning it meets the highest industry standards for managing feed safety risks.

Originally written by Irene Trigueros for Feed & Additive. This article has been republished here with permission.



About Irene Trigueros, Feed Business Unit Manager, Iberia, Golden Agri-Resources:

A trained veterinarian, Irene brings more than 30 years’ experience in the animal feed and nutrition sector to her role as Feed Business Unit Manager for GAR in Iberia. She has extensive commercial experience in both animal health and nutrition and commodities settings, and is closely attuned to the commercial and operational needs of European farmers and feed manufacturers.

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