Plant extracts in animal feed – Why formulation matters

Plant extracts are often all thrown into the same pot, when in fact there are many different types of herbs and spices that could be used in products formulated for the use in animal feed. Plus, there are a multitude of possibilities to combine them and additional factors that will differentiate products containing plant extracts formulated for the use in animal feed. So, the reality is they are not all the same.

The type and combination of plant extracts is only one of the factors that determines the function and effectiveness of what is currently sold into animal feed as “plant extracts”.  What looks promising in an in vitro experiment might not always be practical and cost-effective in vivo.  The question will always be: have the plant extracts been tested at different dosages in the animal and in what species?

Here are 3 of the key factors that need to be considered when formulating and designing feed solutions based on plant extracts.

1.Function

Herbs and Spices have many different bioactive components with different properties and functions. Even their essential oils can have something like 80 different components. Plants have evolved to cope with stressors and many of these components have a protective role supporting the resilience of plants, but they also evolved to attract pollinators to propagate. So, when you combine plant extracts derived from a number of different herbs and spices you can have a all cocktail of bioactive substances and their effect will ultimately also be determined on synergistic effects and not just concentrations of individual components. New research technologies have facilitated a more in depth understanding of the mode of action of plant extracts and their components at the animal level. As a result, it is now possible to formulate plant extracts with a more accurate idea of the outcome for their function in the animal and animal response, rather just working in a black box approach. This is speeding up the process of product development and evaluation. It also provides more potential for differentiation in function between products through formulation know how within the category of plant extracts.

2.Taste

Most plant extracts have sensory properties and they come with a distinctive flavour. That in itself can determine how effective the product will be and how much of it you can apply to animal feed, because the flavour can affect feed intake not just in a positive way.  For example, plant extracts with a strong bitter taste can lead to a lower acceptance of feed in pigs. Again, this will depend on dosage, but is it possible to apply the dosage required to achieve the desired effect in the pig without having a negative impact on feed intake? Only in vivo dose response trials will provide the answer. So, it is important to understand which plant extract compounds might have a negative impact on feed intake and find ways to determine the acceptable dose or mask their taste.

 

3.Concentration/dosage of plant extracts

Concentrations of individual components in the formula and concentrations ultimately added to the feed determine the dosage required to achieve the desired response in the animal. Dose response trials are required to determine the optimal and most cost-effective dosage. As is the case with other types of feed additives more is not always better in terms of performance, but there will be a minimum dose required to have an impact on the animal.

These are only some of the factors to consider when formulating products with plant extracts. But they highlight that how they are formulated matters, and the buck stops with the animal.

Relevant articles

Animal resilience – Harnessing the power of plant resilience

Evolution in the evaluation of phytogenics

 

Resilience in dairy cows – feed for adaptability

It is possible to breed for resilience in dairy cows. But is it possible to feed for it? What are the nutritional options?

Farm resilience

Resilience is a concept that acknowledges unpredictability and emphasizes the need to enable adaptability and transformability of systems instead of optimizing them. A farm management approach based on resilience comes up with systems and solutions that can absorb and accommodate future events in whatever unexpected form they may come.  It follows that resources are allocated to strategies that allow reducing the impact of a wide variety of potential unknown events and on identifying emergent opportunities.

Farm resilience is characterized by the ability to:

(1) constantly evolve while protecting against shocks to the system

(2) readjust to adapt to stressors

(3) to implement strategies to take advantage of strengths

and (4) to continually adapt to the current situation (Darnhofer 2009)

Increasing diversity and adaptive capacity of farm systems have been highlighted as key drivers to improve farm resilience and the ability of farms to cope with different types of disruption and stressors.

Farm resilience starts in the cow

In a dairy production system, farm resilience also depends on how well cows can cope with unforeseen challenges in their feed and their environment. As the cow is an integral part of the system, she is expected to be resilient and less sensitive to stressors and sub-optimal circumstances. This is because less resilient cows will have greater fluctuations in their milk performance and quality leading to a decreased cost-effectiveness of dairy rations and a lower likelihood of reaching performance targets. Consequently, fluctuations in farm profits are bound to occur.

Lower resilience in cows can also lead to increased susceptibility of disease which can cause further losses in the long run. More resilient cows put fewer constraints on new farming systems and require fewer drugs, without compromising health or economic efficiency and are less likely to be prematurely culled. This again affects the sustainability and long-term profitability of the dairy sector.

Resilience in dairy cows – advantages

  • more flexibility and adaptive capacity for the farm system
  • greater consistency in milk production
  • greater consistency in milk quality
  • longer production lives, longevity
  • more stable farm incomes
  • fewer treatments and drugs
  • easier to manage cows and reduction in labour time
  • improved cow welfare

Resilience in dairy cows depends on adaptive capacity

Resilience is determined by how the cow responds and adapts to stressors or in other words by her adaptive capacity.  The transition period for instance is a critical time that requires a high capacity to adapt to lactation. But milk production and quality will also depend on how the cow responds to other stressors, such as heat and mycotoxins. Most stressors will provoke stress reactions in the form of reduced feed intake, oxidative stress, inflammatory responses or changes in rumen efficiency. The extent of these stress reactions is determined by the adaptive capacity of the cow, which again determines the impact stressors can have on key performance parameters, health and longevity of the cow and how quickly she recovers.

Gut agility – feeding for adaptive capacity

Nutrition can play an active role in management strategies designed to reduce the impact of stressors on dairy cow well-being and performance. New nutritional concepts, such as gut agility activators, are designed to support the adaptive capacity of dairy cows for improved resilience.

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Egg production – Resilience for laying persistence

In egg production longer laying cycles can help to cut costs, so they are a promising solution in a tough economic climate. Plus, they can reduce the environmental impact of egg production. Therefore, there is an increasing focus on improving laying persistence and egg quality at the end of the laying cycle. However, due to increasingly intensive metabolism for egg formation, laying hens are more susceptible to diseases, which requires a shift in breeding and nutrition towards greater resilience of birds to improve laying persistence for longer laying cycles.

There is a fast decline in egg production after the hens reach 480 d of age leading to reduced commercial value of laying hens. Understanding the mechanisms of the deterioration of the laying performance can help to slow down the process. The ovary and the liver are key organs involved in egg production of the laying hen, which is why knowing how to support them effectively by nutritional means can make a difference to laying persistence.

Oxidative stress in aging organs

Ovarian aging is one of the highest risk factors that lead to the decline of ovarian functions and hence a reduction in egg production. Studies have shown that oxidative stress plays a driving role in ovarian aging. The antioxidant status of the ovary decreases with age (Figure 2) as a result of a reduction in antioxidant enzymes and antioxidants in the hen’s own defense mechanisms. Oxidative stress is initiated by the gradual accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the ovary and a reduction of the antioxidative capacity during the aging process. This will be exacerbated through stressors, such as heat, mycotoxins, endotoxins and others, which increase the production of ROS in the hen on a cellular level. A growing body of evidence suggests that oxidative stress is involved in most of commercially relevant stresses in poultry production. Oxidative stress is defined as an imbalance between production of ROS and their elimination by protective mechanisms. This imbalance leads to damage of important biomolecules and cells, with potential impact on the whole organism. It can also lead to inflammatory responses which can affect energy efficiency of the laying hen.

Age-related changes in the antioxidative capacity of the hen’s liver, is an important factor that influences liver function. Studies have demonstrated that the total antioxidant capacity of the liver declines as the hen ages (Figure 2) and this has also been linked to a decrease in egg production and in the ability of yolk precursor formation.

Feeding for resilience in egg production

To extend the laying cycle of commercial flocks, long-term maintenance of organs involved in producing eggs is required. Feeding for antioxidative capacity in laying hens has been shown to retard the antioxidant decline of aging ovaries and can thus help to maintain functioning ovaries for longer. It is also known to maintain a healthy liver for longer. However, feeding to improve the adaptive capacity of birds to stressors helps to minimize stress reactions, such as oxidative stress, as well as inflammatory responses and reduced feed intake, which can further increase resilience in birds and reduce the potential for stressors to diminish the chances for producers to successfully extend the laying period. Animal resilience has been defined as “the capacity of the animal to be minimally affected by challenges or to rapidly return to the state pertained before exposure to a challenge.

The gut agility concept in Anco FIT Poultry was specifically developed to increase the capacity of the bird to adapt to challenges more efficiently and to reduces stress reactions that would otherwise reduce the hens performance and potential to sustain longer laying cycles. A trial carried out in a commercial laying hen flock in Brazil, demonstrates how Anco FIT Poultry improves the resilience of birds to stressors compared to birds on a control diet (Figure 3). The impact of stressors was smaller on egg production and birds recovered quicker from stressors leading to greater laying persistency and more eggs produced per hen over the trial period.

 

Published in International Poultry Production by Gwendolyn Jones

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Animal Nutrition journal – New scientific paper on Anco FIT Poultry

The Animal Nutrition journal published a scientific paper with research involving the application of Anco FIT Poultry in broilers and its effects on the expression of cytoprotective genes at the gut level.

Link to full scientific paper published online in Animal Nutrition

Abstract

Priming of intestinal cytoprotective genes and antioxidant capacity by dietary phytogenic inclusion in broilers

Konstantinos C. Mountzouris, Vasileios V. Paraskeuas, Konstantinos Fegeros

The potential of a phytogenic premix (PP) based on ginger, lemon balm, oregano and thyme to stimulate the expression of cytoprotective genes at the broiler gut level was evaluated in this study. In particular, the effects of PP inclusion levels on a selection of genes related to host protection against oxidation (catalase [CAT], superoxide dismutase 1 [SOD1], glutathione peroxidase 2 [GPX2], heme oxygenase 1 [HMOX1], NAD(P)H quinone dehydrogenase 1 [NQO1], nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 [Nrf2] and kelch like ECH associated protein 1 [Keap1]), stress (heat shock 70 kDa protein 2 [HSP70] and heat shock protein 90 alpha family class A member 1 [HSP90]) and inflammation (nuclear factor kappa B subunit 1 [NF-kB1], Toll-like receptor 2 family member B (TLR2B) and Toll-like receptor 4 [TLR4]) were profiled along the broiler intestine. In addition, broiler intestinal segments were assayed for their total antioxidant capacity (TAC). Depending on PP inclusion level (i.e. 0, 750, 1,000 and 2,000 mg/kg diet) in the basal diets, 1-d-old Cobb broiler chickens (n = 500) were assigned into the following 4 treatments: CON, PP-750, PP-1000 and PP-2000. Each treatment had 5 replicates of 25 chickens with ad libitum access to feed and water. Data were analyzed by ANOVA and means compared using Tukey’s honest significant difference (HSD) test.

Results

Polynomial contrasts tested the linear and quadratic effect of PP inclusion levels. Inclusion of PP increased (P≤ 0.05) the expression of cytoprotective genes against oxidation, except CAT. In particular, the cytoprotective against oxidation genes were up-regulated primarily in the duodenum and the ceca and secondarily in the jejunum. Most of the genes were upregulated in a quadratic manner with increasing PP inclusion level with the highest expression levels noted in treatments PP-750 and PP-1000 compared to CON. Similarly, intestinal TAC was higher in PP- 1000 in the duodenum (P= 0.011) and the ceca (P=0.050) compared to CON. Finally, increasing PP inclusion level resulted in linearly reduced (P≤ 0.05) expression of NF-kB1, TLR4 and HSP70, the former in the duodenum and the latter 2 in the ceca.

Conclusion

Overall, PP inclusion consistently up-regulated cytoprotective genes and down-regulated stress and inflammation related ones. The effect is dependent on PP inclusion level and the intestinal site. The potential of PP to beneficially prime bird cytoprotective responses merit further investigation under stress-challenge conditions.

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Heat stress in sows – Better lactation performance with Anco FIT

Heat stress in sows can compromise lactation performance, as it generally reduces feed intake in sows. The gut agility activator Anco FIT was tested in sow feed for maintaining sow lactation performance despite heat stress during the summer months in Argentina.

Heat stress in sows

In sows, temperatures above 25c can cause heat stress. In lactating sows this is generally associated with reduced feed intake, resulting in reduced milk production, with the knock-on effect on piglet growth. The modern lactating sow is particularly at risk of heat stress, as it has been heavily selected for increased productivity including litter size and litter weaning weight, which comes with increased heat production.

Trial design

The trial was carried out on a commercial farm with 1500 sows in Cordoba, Argentina. The trial period was during the summer months in Argentina from February 29th to 9th of April. Temperatures ranged between 26 and 29C, with a humidity of around 75% and it was expected that sows were experiencing some degree of heat stress.

100 sows were split into 2 groups: 1) control group fed corn-soybean diet, specified to sow requirements in gestation and lactation 2) trial group fed the control diet supplemented with 1 kg of Anco FIT per ton of feed. The trial started two weeks before farrowing and ended with the weaning of pigs at 21 days of lactation.

Cross-fostering was performed within 24 h post-farrowing and litters of piglets were adjusted to 12-13 piglets within the same treatment. The average daily feed intake of the sows during lactation was recorded. Piglets received no creep feed during the lactation period.

Results

Sow feed intake in lactation was significantly increased in Anco FIT vs control sows (5.29kg/d vs 4.39 kg/d, P<0.01). Piglet mortality was significantly reduced in sows fed Anco FIT and litter weight gains significantly increased vs control (42.26kg vs 36.55kg, P<0.01).

Conclusion

Adding Anco FIT to sow diets at 1kg/t increased sow feed intake and lactation performance under summer heat stress in commercial sow farm conditions.

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Farm resilience starts in the bird – feed for adaptability

Farm resilience is emerging as a key success factor in times of great uncertainty. Farming deals with a lot of uncertainties and change at its best. However, adding factors like climate change, the Covid 19 crisis and rapid changes in consumer demand into the mix exacerbates the need for the capacity of farms to adsorb shocks and adapt to change quickly to survive economically in the long-term.

Farm resilience versus farm optimization

Resilience thinking highlights that in the long run for a farm to persevere optimising resource allocation under known conditions will not be enough. Resilience is a concept that acknowledges unpredictability and emphasizes the need to enable adaptability and transformability of systems instead of optimizing them.

A farm management approach based on resilience comes up with systems that can absorb and accommodate future events in whatever unexpected form they may come. It follows that resources are allocated to strategies that allow reducing the impact of a wide variety of potential unknown events and on identifying emergent opportunities. However, fewer resources are spent on improvements in efficiency.

A crisis, such as Covid 19, may be a trigger for transformational change, since it is more likely that new alternative organizational forms will be considered.

Feeding birds for resilience

In a poultry production system, farm resilience also depends on how well birds can cope with unforeseen challenges in their feed and the environment. This is because less resilient birds will have greater fluctuations in their performance leading to a decreased cost-effectiveness of poultry feeds and a lower likelihood of reaching performance targets. With poultry feed representing around 70% of the total cost of poultry production systems it also means more variability in farm profits. Lower resilience in birds can also lead to increased susceptibility of disease which can cause further losses in the long run.

Research has shown that certain feed supplements can play a role in management strategies designed to reduce the impact of stressors on poultry well-being and performance. The gut agility activator Anco FIT Poultry was proven to improve the capacity of broilers and laying hens to cope with stressors under commercial conditions and enhance the birds endogenous defense mechanisms to buffer stress reactions on the cellular level more efficiently in a research environment.

More resilience means less need for antibiotics

Feeding birds for adaptability to increase resilience can also help to reduce the need for antibiotics. Minimizing stress reactions, such as reduced gut integrity and oxidative stress, by nutritional means also helps to reduce the susceptibility of birds to disease that may otherwise require the need for treatments with antibiotics or the use of antibiotic growth promotors in the feed.

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Heat stress in pigs – nutritional interventions that work

Heat stress in pigs puts an economic strain on pig production in many countries of the world and the current climate changes have increased the prevalence and intensity of heat stress. Nutritional interventions supporting resilience mechanisms represent a practical, adaptable and cost-effective strategy to mitigate the negative effects of heat stress and improve animal productivity.

Economic losses from heat stress in pigs

Compared to other animals, pigs are more sensitive to heat stress due to their high metabolic heat production, quick fat deposition, and lack of sweat glands. Heat stress-induced economic losses result from reduced and inconsistent growth, poor sow performance and increased mortality and morbidity. In the US alone heat stress is costing pig farmers around $50 to $60 per pig each year. Regions around the world most affected by climate change are likely to see an increase in the detrimental effects of heat stress on animal production and welfare in the future. On top of that genetic selection for increased litter size and leaner phenotypes leads to an increase in thermal sensitivity in pigs, due to increased basal heat production.

Summer heat stress in sows

Sows suffer from heat stress in environmental temperatures above 25°C. Heat stress in sows has been shown to reduce feed intake, from 655 g/day to more than 2 kg per day, with subsequent negative consequences for reproduction, milk production and piglet growth. If the sow is maintained under heat stress conditions for a long period, there is a risk that the animal will overheat, which can lead to death via hyperthermia. In countries with tropical conditions such as Brazil this is very common. According to researchers in Brazil, lactating sows of some genetic lines can have up to 15% mortality during Brazilian summers due to heat stress conditions. In gestating sows there is some evidence that heat stress during pregnancy can have in utero negative effects on the offspring’s thermoregulatory capabilities.

Heat stress in fattening pigs

Research has shown that it only takes 2-6 hours of heat stress (37C and 40% humidity) to compromise feed intake and intestinal integrity in growing pigs. Studies in finishing pigs have also shown oxidative stress in the liver in response to chronic heat stress at 30 °C. The drop in feed intake in response to heat stress increases as the body weight increases in pigs. Pigs of 60-100kg raised in Brazil during the summer months have been reported to have a reduction in growth rates of around 15% compared to pigs raised during the winter.

Management interventions for heat stress in pigs

Flexible, affordable management approaches to immediately decrease heat stress susceptibility without negatively influencing traditional production traits are of great value to pig production. However, the input cost for optimal cooling technology is very costly and often too expensive for smaller producers.

Dietary supplementation and modifications are less costly easily adjustable tactics and are suitable for all production systems.

Nutrition
• Consider the thermal effect of feed and reduce fibres and crude proteins, which generate a lot of heat.
• Increase the fat content of the diet
• Feed pigs during the cooler hours of the day
• Provide pigs with unlimited access to cool and fresh drinking water
• Adapt vitamin, mineral and amino acid levels in feed to the pig requirements under heat stress

Supporting resilience mechanisms by nutritional means

Research increasing the understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in heat stress induced inflammation and intestinal barrier disruption paves the way to nutritional strategies to preserve the physiological performance of the gut. Many of the negative consequences that heat stress has on pig health and productivity are mediated by reduced intestinal barrier integrity, which is followed by inflammatory responses.

At the cellular level, hyperthermia leads to disruption of intestinal epithelial integrity, by affecting tight junctions. Damage to tight junctions facilitates the transfer of toxins and pathogens from the gut through the epithelial barrier, contributing to an exaggeration of inflammatory responses, which can further worsen the intestinal damage. Hyperthermia provokes the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). However, it can also directly impair the antioxidant defence system of the animal, which eventually leads to oxidative stress and intracellular damage. Studies in growing pigs have shown an inverse relationship between oxidative status and growth performance, whereby pigs with a higher oxidative stress status had poorer performance.

Nutritional solutions which have the capacity to preserve cellular homeostasis by enhancing cellular defense systems, thereby reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, as well as maintain intestinal integrity are considered to be able to help protect animals against the adverse effects of heat stress.

Gut agility activators are feed supplements that were specifically formulated to enhance the resilience of animals, by supporting cellular defense systems and enabling more efficient responses to stressors including heat stress thus mitigating the impact on performance.

Sow trial with Anco FIT during summer months

A recent sow lactation trial carried out in the summer months in Argentina, showed increased feed intake (21%) and improved lactation performance in sows fed the gut agility activator Anco FIT compared to sows on a control diet.

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Don’t let summer heat stress spoil poultry appetite

Summer is just around the corner and it is time to prepare strategies to manage the impact of summer heat stress on poultry production efficiency.

Effect of heat stress on feed intake in poultry

Modern poultry is particularly sensitive to temperature-associated environmental challenges, due to their metabolic activity. Decreased feed intake in response to heat stress is the starting point for decreased body weight gain, feed efficiency, egg production and quality. Research has shown that a 12-day heat stress period in laying hens decreases feed intake by 29 g/bird, resulting in a 28.8% decrease in egg production. Others reported that for every 1◦C increase in temperature between 21◦C and 30◦C, appetite decreases by 1.5%, and for every 1◦C increase in temperature between 32◦C and 38◦C, the reduction is about 4.6% in laying hens. Studies in broilers have shown that birds reared in temperatures between (35 and 38 C) had significantly lower feed intakes and growth rates compared to birds reared in optimal temperatures.

Underlying mechanisms

There is general agreement that gut peptide hormones like Cholecystokinin (CCK) and Ghrelin have a role to play in appetite regulation in chicken. However, the role of these gut peptides in appetite regulation is not fully understood for poultry yet and there is some controversy around how their physiological roles may differ between birds and other vertebrates.

There is little information available on the underlying mechanisms for a reduction in feed intake in response to heat stress in poultry. One study investigating the effect of heat exposure on gene expression of various appetite regulating peptides in laying hens reported an upregulation of ghrelin mRNA in the hypothalamus as well as in the glandular stomach and jejunum. Suggesting that one of the pathways for the negative impact on feed intake of high ambient temperature in laying hens might be mediated by its effects on the hypothalamic and gastrointestinal ghrelin signals.

Supporting feed intake under summer heat stress

New nutritional concepts, such as gut agility activators, are designed to support the adaptive capacity and hence resilience of the bird by nutritional means. They help the bird to adapt to stressors by minimizing stress reactions including reduced feed intake. The gut agility activator Anco FIT Poultry has been shown to maintain higher feed intakes in broilers and layers compared to control animals in commercial conditions under summer heat stress. This was associated with higher weight gains and end weights

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Feeding cows for adaptive capacity in the transition period

The adaptive capacity of the cow determines transition success. When dairy cows fail to adapt physiologically to the demands of calving and the onset of milk production, the resulting metabolic stress leads to transition cow disorders with negative consequences for milk production, reproduction efficiency and longevity. The high prevalence of metabolic disorders and production disease around calving highlight the fact that many farm systems do not provide adequate solutions and are overstretching the adaptation capacity of their cows. Understanding the underlying mechanisms and factors exacerbating metabolic stress during transition can help to find nutritional solutions that enhance the adaptive capacity in transition dairy cows.

Transition failures

The transition period is a demanding time for dairy cows and around 30% to 50% of dairy cows are affected by some form of metabolic or infectious disease, around the time of calving. This includes milk fever ketosis, retained placenta and mastitis. A declining availability of qualified dairy staff is likely to exacerbate this, as it means that cows are receiving less individual attention to identify and respond to health issues. When disorders occur, it is a demonstration that cows have difficulties in coping with external and internal conditions, endangering their own capacity to survive. It shows that the cows are failing to adapt to changes, stressors and gaps between nutrient supply and demand.

During the transition period dairy cows must adjust metabolically to a dramatic increase in energy and nutrient requirements needed for foetal growth and onset of milk production, exceeding the amount of energy the cow receives from dietary sources. This makes the cow susceptible to a negative energy balance. A negative energy balance initiates lipid mobilization, which again leads to high concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs). Metabolism of large amounts of NEFAs to ketone bodies induces an increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can eventually lead to oxidative stress in the liver of dairy cows.

Increased oxidative stress in dairy cows is recognized as an underlying factor of dysfunctional inflammatory responses and it has been linked to the occurrence of transition disorders. Oxidative stress in the liver is known to cause inflammatory damage of the liver, which impairs the metabolic function of liver cells and promotes the development of ketosis. In the mammary gland it has been associated with increased somatic cell counts in milk and the incidence of mastitis. Overall, these findings lead to the assumption that the underlying mechanisms that exacerbate metabolic stress and cause health disorders in transition dairy cows are combined effects of altered nutrient metabolism, oxidative stress and dysfunctional inflammatory responses.

Transition success

Successful adaptation avoids metabolic disorders in the transition period. Overall dairy cows are more likely to succeed in adaptation in the transition period when the gap between nutrient demands and supply is limited. However, there are also indications in the literature that even when cows had comparable energy balance, there is considerable individual variation of the adaptive ability of cows during early lactation based on metabolic and endocrine variables. Therefore, another approach is to find ways to support the cow in her ability to cope with nutritional and metabolic challenges, which would actually help the cow’s adaptability for transition success.

This amongst other things requires the identification of relevant markers that enable the measurement of achieving improved adaptability. One obvious marker for oxidative stress is the level of reactive oxygen species (ROS). However, more recent research suggests that the oxidative stress index (OSi) predicts oxidative status more accurately. The OSi is the ratio between ROS and serum antioxidant capacity.  The researh shows that the OSi is significantly increased in dairy cows around calving, compared to levels at dry-off and at 30 days post calving. So one way of identifying improved adaptive capacity of cows in the transition period could be to measure the oxidative stress index in response to nutritional interventions.

Nutritional support for adaptive capacity

Researchers report that genetic selection for increased milk yield has decreased the adaptability of modern dairy cows. However, a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms for adaptability in dairy cows is helping the development of nutritional solutions to enhance the cow’s ability to cope more efficiently with nutritional and metabolic challenges.

For instance feeding plant extracts with high antioxidative powers can help to increase the level of antioxidative enzymes and antioxidants to support the cow’s own antioxidative defense in the liver. Feeding those type of components can give the liver a better chance of fighting ROS produced in the transition period and thus minimize the negative consequences from oxidative stress on liver function. A large part of the capacity of the adaptation of ruminants to dietary challenges is allowed by the rumen, so feed supplements designed to help maintain rumen efficiency are also going to ease the transition to lactation. However, attempts to reduce the prevalence of metabolic disorders and associated production diseases should rely on continuous and comprehensive monitoring with appropriate indicators on the farm level.

Published in International Dairy Topics by Gwendolyn Jones

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Businesses that did not understand why agility matters to business success are waking up to just how much it matters in the face of the Covid 19 crisis. This is true for any industry including agriculture.

How do you respond to Covid 19?

Remember what happened to the Titanic in the face of an iceberg? Businesses, industries, governments and individuals all over the world are now tested for how quickly they can adapt to a major disruption and spot the opportunities. Everybody is faced with the same question, “How do we respond to Covid 19?” Individual response and the speed of it will matter to the health and economic outcome of the crisis for each of us, businesses, industries and nations all the same. Nature created the perfect storm to test personal agility levels and those of businesses.

“It is not the strongest that survive – it is the most adaptable to change”- – Charles Darwin

Organizational agility or business agility

Business agility, also known as organizational agility, is the capability of a business to be adaptive and flexible through a changing environment and to overcome challenges as they surface with minimal impact to the business. Times of crisis tells businesses just how agile they are. As change is happening so fast, companies need to be able to do these things very quickly to optimize operations for peak performance, exploit opportunities and mitigate risks. Agility is all about how we as individuals and organizations respond to challenges and at what speed, which will ultimately determine the impact the challenge will have on us and on organizations.

“Research shows that in a volatile and uncertain world agility separates the best from the rest.” – Krupp (2020)

In the current crisis leaders must be highly agile to break free of old mental models and politics or business as usual. They need to be able to learn and adapt fast.  Agile leaders demonstrate four skills in times of crisis: adaptability, resilience, learning, and foresight:

Adaptability – Shifting priorities quickly due to rapidly changing external and internal dynamics
Resilience: Bouncing forward from setbacks and failure
Learning: Testing assumptions, failing fast, and continuously iterating in real time
Foresight: Anticipating and being prepared to pivot with market changes

Agility and adaptability are critical to farming

Farming deals with a lot of uncertainties and changes at its best. Therefore, successful farming relies on the producer’s or farmer’s capacity to respond to changing markets, environmental conditions and consumer preferences. So, the future of farming lies in an agile production system and this has only been exacerbated by the Covid 19 crisis. The most sustainable thing to do is focus on those things over which a farm has direct control. Of those the most critical is agility, which enables the producer to continuously adjust what he does to take advantage of external factors or at least reduce the potential negative impact on the business.

Our food production system needs resilience in the face of a volatile trade environment and climate change. Again, this is why speed is of the essence and agility matters in agriculture.

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