Guest Blogger Ryan Goodman - Agriculture Proud
This year’s Alltech Symposium offered many great programs during the breakout sessions. Of greatest interest to me were several sessions focusing on the future of animal nutrition. I had the opportunity to attend two of these sessions.
The Programs Not Products Ruminant section highlighted the need for livestock nutrition to focus on lifetime performance and match nutrition with genetic potential in our animals. As Dr. Pearse Lyons pointed out, focusing on the nutrition programs instead of specific products will move us forward to ensure sustainability and overall performance.
As an industry, we are resistant to change, and adapting programs that require better management of inputs at specific stages may be difficult to justify in segmented parts of the industry. Dave Kuehnel, Milk Products, walked session attendees through the importance of feeding dairy heifers with their lifetime production in mind. Information shared in Kuehnel’s presentation highlighted the impact better nutrition had in pre-weaning heifers on the improved performance through lactation.
To make the connection of genetics and nutrition for the beef cattle industry, Bob Sands from The Beef Connection, highlighted the importance of quality nutrition programs from conception to consumption. Sand’s information highlighted recent studies showing how improved dam nutrition during pregnancy can influence the developing fetus and program that offspring for better performance throughout its lifetime. By following through with quality nutrition programs, data suggests better long-term performance and carcass quality at harvest because of more targeted nutritional inputs. The Fetal Programming concept, as this is referred to, is a very promising program to help cattle reach genetic potential with better nutrition.
In the Re-Imaging Nutrition session, we continued the conversation about programs of nutrition by making the connection of nutrigenomics and how it can revolutionize the food we eat.
Prof. Alex Evans, University College Dublin, went more in depth with the concept of Fetal Programming by using information from his research in Ireland. During the 1900s, researchers identified how periods of severe nutrient restriction during pregnancy in humans, resulted in higher risk of health problems in their offspring. Applying this concept to cattle, Evans and other researchers have found that cattle from dams that were restricted in nutrient intake during gestation have lower performance through life and are less fertile. In sheep, research has found that elevated nutrition during gestation programs lambs to perform better and gain more weight throughout their lifetime. As Evans pointed out, longevity is a lifetime task, not the influence of changes during a short window of time.
Programs of nutrition during pregnancy are some of the longest studied concepts in livestock and we continue to discover how these changes impact offspring on a long-term basis. The presenters during Alltech Symposium had a large amount of information to offer and gave a bright outlook for the future of animal nutrition as it influences food production.
- Ryan Goodman