- Animal Nutrition & Health
- Future of Farming
- Feeding the World
- About Alltech
Livestock producers have struggled with rising grain prices for years now and with feed accounting for 60 - 70% of the costs for animal production, investing in alternatives has become a necessity. Several factors have contributed to the grain problem including global weather conditions which are difficult to predict and impossible to control. In any given year it is unlikely that the world will be completely free of droughts or floods. In a global economy with enormous demands on grain producers, regional shortages quickly become worldwide shortages.
Demand for renewable fuel has put stress on corn supplies. The animal agriculture industry has seen feed costs rise dramatically as mandated ethanol production has ramped up. The politics of ethanol production may change as food prices rise, but for now livestock producers cannot rely entirely on corn. A wide variety of alternative feedstuffs have found their way into animal diets in the last few years, however, none of these sources are overly abundant or immune to weather conditions.
The global population is predicted to exceed 9 billion by the year 2050. That number is hard to comprehend. If you consider that the current growth rate is over 200,000 people per day then it is easy to imagine how much additional food is required each day. As the population increases, more farm land is developed for houses, factories, roads, etc. At some point we will not be able to plant enough grain to meet the growing demand.
Cellulose could become a very significant source of animal feed. Plant fibers like wood and straw, which are incredibly abundant, are composed mostly of cellulose, a polymer of sugar molecules bound together to provide strength and support for plants. Enzymes can be used to break apart cellulose and other plant fibers to release the sugars and other nutrients. Cattle and other grazing animals break down cellulose with the help of microbial enzymes in the rumen. Cellulose can also be turned into feed for non-ruminant animals like poultry and swine with the help of enzymes. This natural process is called solid state fermentation and it employs fungi to break cellulose down into smaller, digestible molecules.