1. The challenge for producers in our current climate is to meet the predicted increase in demand for affordable, quality meat, while also conforming to animal welfare and environmental sustainability regulations. In addition, producers are also competing for the same resources and land amongst animal production, human food and biofuel sectors, which drives the price of raw materials and cost of production up (Tona, 2018; Tedeschi et al., 2017a).
  2. For livestock producers to maximise their production efficiency sustainably, ethically and economically, they need to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to breeding and production with the aid of modern biotechnology (Tona, 2018; Tedeschi et al., 2017b).
  3. Applying data obtained from nutrigenomics and epigenetics to feed formulations is an emerging scientific field in animal nutrition. Both aspects use the animal’s dietary nutrients during prenatal and postnatal development to target key desirable genes and manipulate the expression of these genes in the animal. This maximises the genetic potential for desirable economic traits (Murdoch et al., 2016; Banerjee et al., 2015; Cassar-Malak et al., 2008).
  4. Multiple studies have found that the type/source of macro-nutrients, phytonutrients, minerals and vitamins, and the quantities of these nutrients in the tissues of animals, can be manipulated to alter the expression of target genes. The alteration causes changes in protein and energy pathways, and metabolic and physiological pathways, resulting in different phenotypic traits (Banerjee et al., 2015; Ghormade et al., 2011).
  5. Gene expression related to muscle growth and development in cattle was found to be regulated during foetal development. The same study found that, manipulating the expression of FSTL1 and IGFBP5, has implications for myogenesis regulation in developing muscle fibres in cattle, thereby affecting the growth and muscling of the animal later in life (Zduńczyk & Pareek, 2009).
  6. Another recent field of study is early-life programming, via both maternal and paternal epigenetic transfer, which links influences during the animal’s foetal and post-natal development with the animal’s health and productivity later in life (Brennan, 2016).
  7. In a study focused on maternal transfer, restrictions in an ewe’s diet during pregnancy did result in phenotypically heavier lambs. However, physiologically these lambs exhibited a reduced number of myofibers during foetal development and metabolically exhibited reduced protein synthesis, because the activation of the mTOR signalling pathway decreased. As a result, from a production and carcass quality point of view, although heavier, these lambs had increased fat and decreased muscle mass (Brennan, 2016).
  8. Scholtz et al. (2014) and Choucair et al. (2018) focused on the effect of paternal epigenetic effects on their offspring in boars and roosters respectively. Scholtz et al. (2014) found that feeding boars methyl-supplemented feed increased DNA methylation in the muscle of their offspring. Choucair et al. (2018) found that oxidative stress in roosters resulted in negative consequences for embryo development and metabolic efficiency, and for the growth of the offspring. However, these negative consequences were reduced when the roosters were supplemented with vitamin C/ vitamin E/ folate/ lycopene/ Zn/ Se/ green tea extract.
  9. Immunologically, producers and nutritionists can use genome-wide monitoring of gene expression as a tool to identify biomarkers in animals prone to disease. This allows for predictive diagnosis and early nutritional intervention (Ghormade et al., 2011).
  10. Early-life nutrition has the potential to affect an animal’s ability to respond to immunological challenges. For example, feeding spray-dried plasma to piglets during their first two weeks post-weaning improved immunological responses and decreased intestinal injury after exposure to Typhimurium later in life (Brennan, 2016).
  11. Nanotechnology is innovative technology that ultimately alters the structure of foodstuff at a molecular level, enhancing quality and texture. Using this technology in feed additives is expected to enhance the bioavailability of key nutrients, reduce the dose rate, provide precise nutrients, and prevent interactions with other components during processing and storage (Chharang et al., 2019).
  12. Strategic use of novel feed additives, which incorporates modern biotechnology to provide statistically consistent and repeatable results, has the potential to improve animal production efficiency while meeting the demands of our current climate (McGrath et al., 2018).

It is imperative that, in a continuously changing and dynamic climate (social, economic and environmental), animal nutritionists keep up with the latest technology and scientific applications to optimise animal productivity. Being innovative is essential, not just in the current climate, but also for future climates where educated scientific reasoning will lead to proactive rather than reactive solutions to challenges in animal production (Chharang et al., 2019; Tedeschi et al., 2017b; Ghormade et al., 2011). The task of modernising animal production and animal formulations is daunting, but becomes manageable when you have a partner that pushes the nutraceutical frontier based on high-quality science.

Follow the science to help your business grow by contacting Frans Hagg on 0720370749, Magda Reynders on 0631099780 or Hanaa Solomon on 0839600580.

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