EU search for alternatives to soya in pig diets
The EU Commission is concerned about the lack of alternative ingredients to soya for pig diet pecially with increases expected in soya prices. Production of soya is limited in the EU, which depends mostly on importing protein supplies.
Edgar Garcia Manzanilla, the recently appointed Head of the Teagasc Pig Development Department, is part of the EU’s new EIP-AGRI focus group to study the protein issue.
He says there are hundreds of materials that could be used as feedstuffs for pigs directly or after some processing. However, Ireland’s geographic location makes it more challenging for pig producers here to avail of these alternative feedstuffs, compared to their continental colleagues.
Not many ingredients available in Irel d fulfil the requirements of moderate to high protein content, good digestibility and amino acid profile, low anti-nutritional factors, and competitive price.
Industry residuals and former food
This is probably the most realistic category for most countries, including Ireland. The ingredients available vary by region.
A good example is FeedValid, a Dutch company developing technology to produce good quality feedstuffs from industry by-products (www.feedvalid.eu/en/ingredients). Historically, whey was the main by-product available in Ireland, but its increased use for human foods has limited its availability. Bakery products, sweets, snacks or horticultural products may be available, but are mostly low in protein and rich in energy. Probably the best alternative in Ireland, with the increase of whiskey dist leries and the beer industry, are brewery products that have higher protein content. Many of these are already used regionally, but there is still great potential to refine the processes and increase use.
A good Irish example of the products obtained from recycling can be found in the millstreamrecycling.ie website.
Aquatic biomass and single cell protein
Aquatic biomass includes a range of plant and micro and macro algae species, like duckweed, with high protein levels (50-60%), amino acid profiles similar to soya bean meal, and interesting contents in omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients.
Quite a few projects are investigating these ingredients in the EU.
Full scale development is expected to take 5-10 years. Technical difficulties include algae needing heat to grow, and needing a relatively constant supply of nutrients. The ideal situation would be to obtain the heat and nutrients from pig farms, thus recycling some of the energy and waste of the farm. Algae could thus be a way to turn waste into feed components.
Similarly, we can use bacteria of fungi to recycle waste products, says Edgar Garcia Manzanilla of Teagasc. Single cell prot n is a simple concept.
From very different materials, you find a way to get nutrients that you feed to a bacteria or fungi population, and they produce feed. The protein content of such products is very variable, from 10% to 80%, but they generally have good amino acid profiles.
Currently, Norway and Finland are working on using wood shavings to extract glucose, feed it to bacteria, and produce SCP.
“Some are convinced insects are the food and feedstuff of the future; some think it will not be a major option. “Those who believe in it are investing significant time and money, such as Daniel Murta (www.entogreen.org) who presented to our EIP-AGRI protein focus group. “Using insects, he has created a recycling plant in Portugal.
“He also explained the huge interest McDonalds have shown in insects as an alternative animal feed. Among the most commonly used insects are black soldier fly, yellow mealworm, and lesser mealworm, with protein contents of 40-60%, and amino acid prof es comparable to soya bean meal. With these animals being very dependent on heat to grow, it does not seem like a good alternative for Ireland, but it may be available at some point as an ingredient produced in warmer climates.
Although there are Irish pig farmers using some of the alternative ingredients mentioned here, Edgar Garcia Manzanilla said Irish farmers mostly outsource formulation of pig diets and use whatever ingredients are available. In general, these are ingredients available in large amounts like soya , wheat, or barley.
“There are opportunities for cost-effective use of new ingredients on a more regional basis. “However this use may require some research and development.”
This is very common in some EU countries like the Netherlands or Germany, and the EU has now made funding available to develop such initiatives in all EU countries through the rural development programmes.
“You just need the idea, the right partners, and a little bit of work.”
(Some examples are at ec.europa.eu/eip/agriculture/en/my-eip-agri/operational-groups).
A bird feeding on duckweed: it is one of aquatic biomass plant and micro and macro-algae species which researchers are looking at in the EU’s search for alternative ingredients to soya for pig diets.
Teagasc has appointed Edgar Garcia Manzanilla, above, as Head of the Pig Development Department and Ciaran Carroll as Head of Knowledge Transfer in the Department.