Animal producers and animal feed companies in the EU are facing tough times in a highly competitive and rapidly changing environment. Agile nutrition concepts are the next step towards more agile operations, maintaining a competitive edge and increasing efficiency. By Gwendolyn Jones, Anco Animal Nutrition Competence GmbH
The European livestock sector contributes €130bn annually to Europe’s economy and represents 48% of total agricultural activity. With the rapid growth of efficient farming businesses outside the EU, growth in productivity is essential for EU livestock farmers in order to stay competitive. According to a whitepaper by the Animal Task Force (ATF) this requires imaginative and innovative system approaches.
The ATF announced that one of the top priorities for competitive animal production in Europe is to improve resource efficiency of animals. This means more efficient and robust animals that are healthier, more resilient, have an increased well-being and have a lower feed conversion rate. Key to this for genetic selection will be identifying appropriate indicator traits that reflect improved resource-use efficiency. Furthermore, feeding management can have a significant impact on robustness and resilience of animals.
Dealing with the unexpected
Brexit- nobody really thought it would happen, but on the 24th of June this year the EU woke up to a Brexit decision by the British people. What that really means for the future is still uncertain. One thing is for sure, it will mean significant change for both the UK and the EU. How this is going to affect businesses, farming and agriculture is most definitely also going to be down to decision makers in management of organizations and how they will respond and adapt to a changing business and trading environment.
Businesses that are going to complain, resist or deny the change and just carry on with the same procedure as every year, are probably not going to do very well. Others that think: “Shit happens, change happens, but OK let’ s make a plan and deal with it!” are most likely to find ways to efficiently adapt to a changing business and trading environment and even find opportunities to benefit from the change. This is what organizational agility really is all about.
Organizational agility key to survival
Under today’s levels of uncertainty, ambiguity, volatility in the markets, and globalization, it is critical to be agile and quickly respond to change. Organizational agility is the capacity to anticipate change, respond, adapt quickly and thrive in a changing environment.
Given the rapid pace of technological development and growth of global competition, agility is the ability to move quickly and effectively in anticipating and taking advantage of change. It is essential to pick out fast what matters and act accordingly. Agile companies in the modern business world can maintain a competitive edge, despite significant business change in their environments.
A study by McKinsey found that 9 out of 10 executives said organizational agility was critical to business success and growing in importance over time. Given the challenges for animal production to remain competitive in the EU, organizational agility is precisely a capability increasingly also required by animal producers and feed millers.
Taking steps towards an agile operation
The American change management company PROSCI carried out research on what attributes agile organizations share that make them agile. The attributes where respondents scored the highest were:
1. We encourage cross-organizational collaboration
2. We anticipate and plan for changes
3. We have enhanced risk management practices
This is a starting point to generate ideas for steps to take to increase the agility of your organization. Organizational change management capability also showed up prominently as a crucial enabler of agility. So another step could be to start developing the change management capability of your organization.
In this article the focus is on what you can do at the animal level to increase the agility of your operation.
Advanced operational agility with agile nutrition concepts
Feed is the largest and most important component to ensuring safe, abundant and affordable animal protein. Animal nutrition is a crucial means to influence animal performance, production costs, product quality, environmental impact, animal health and welfare, and food security. Needless to say animal feeding plays an important role in livestock production systems and the pressure is on to quickly adapt animal nutrition to the challenges ahead and find new ways to meet increasing demands more sustainably, efficiently and at the same time taking the well-being of animals into account. All of which play a key role for consumers in the EU.
Agile nutrition concepts are concerned with the question, whether the natural ability of animals to adapt to nutritional challenges and other stressors can be deliberately accelerated and optimized to benefit animal performance and the agility of animal production systems.
Research in genetic selection shows that improving the ability of animals to cope with stressors is a better way of improving performance than selecting only for increased growth potential. Genetic selection is certainly going to play an important role for advancement in this capability of the animal. However, nutritional strategies supporting the speed and efficacy with which the animal adapts to stressors will bring a more immediate competitive advantage in animal production.
Agile nutrition concepts are an advanced step towards greater operational agility in animal protein production. The reality of the animal is, that it too faces unexpected changes in diet composition, feed raw materials and stressors such as mycotoxin contamination of feed. This again will lead to stress reactions at the cellular level, which will result in a reduction in production efficiency and can make the animal more prone to disease. It can also lead to reduced feed intake, resulting in reduced growth performance particularly in young animals.
The purpose of agile nutritional concepts is to empower the animal to adapt to nutritional stressors in a more energy efficient response and cope in such a way that negative impacts on performance are reduced.
Feeding for gut agility
The gut is particularly responsive to different stressors. That is why it makes sense to focus on the gut to empower animals to cope with stressors. A new approach to nutrition is to support the agility of the gut, i.e. its ability to adapt to stress factors efficiently. The agile gut is quicker to respond to prevent negative stress reactions, such as oxidative stress, loss in appetite, increased gut permeability and inflammation, which can cause waste of metabolic energy and increased risk of disease. Agile nutritional concepts are designed to empower animals to adapt to a variety of nutritional stress factors for more robust and energy-efficient animals. They rely on bioactive substances derived from plants, known to prevent some of the negative stress reactions seen at the cellular levels in response to stressors.
OUTCOME: more robust and efficient animals
Applying agile nutritional concepts to feed to support gut agility leads to more robust animals and greater efficiency in performance in the face of nutritional challenges, that are difficult to control, but are part of the reality of the animal and impact performance. The animal becomes more agile in the face of dietary challenges, resulting in more consistent high performance and well-being. This also helps to support the overall demand for agility in animal production operations to stay competitive in safe animal protein production.