Increment in animal population may not always be accompanied by an increase in livestock feed resource availability. Overgrazing, erosion, poor health, and poor performance can all result from these factors. As a result, alternative food sources are needed to meet the demands of expanding animal populations. Let’s explore this further in this article.
Nutrition could be a serious constraint to livestock production, particularly if feed resources are insufficient in both quality and quantity.
Over the years, global livestock production has steadily increased, resulting in an increase in animal population.
However, increases in animal population have not always been accompanied by increased availability of livestock feed resources. These can lead to overgrazing, erosion, poor health, and poor performance.
Therefore, alternative food sources are required to meet the demands of increasing animal populations. Among them protein sources are of vital importance.
Increasing Meat Demand:
According to the World Food Survey, to feed the world's population by 2025, 75 percent more food will be required. This increasing demand needs to be met at all costs.
This increased demand will put farmers under pressure to produce 974 more calories per person per day, all while farmland is expected to shrink.
How can farmers produce more protein-rich, nutritious foods while not putting additional strain on an already stressed food system? What role does their livestock's diet play in safeguarding our planet for future generations?
These are the questions compelling producers and agriculturalists to look towards alternative sources of nutrition, especially protein sources.
The Future of Feed:
While soy has long been a prominent protein, meat, and milk substitute for humans, the majority of the world's soybeans are used for animal feed. It is used to feed animals raised for human consumption in particular, and it is the most common protein source in all compounded feeds for poultry, dairy cattle, and pigs worldwide.
However, growing soybeans is not always environmentally friendly or healthy. Concerns about pesticides, deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and biodiversity have highlighted the need for alternative protein sources and feed ingredients.
In an environmentally conscious agricultural economy, we must look beyond conventional animal proteins used in animal fodder to more viable alternatives.
Alternative Sources of Protein:
The nutrient content of many alternative feeds varies greatly, necessitating an analysis or some sort of feed value assessment. To develop balanced, low-cost diets for livestock, producers must understand the energy, protein, and major mineral levels of these feeds.
Following are some emerging alternative protein sources for farm animals:
When it comes to high protein content, peas are emerging as a more viable alternative to soy meal. According to research, pea protein has a high protein content (80%) and is a concentrated source of essential amino acids.
Including peas or pea proteins as a functional ingredient in baby pig feed may promote superior villi development and vitality.
This may result in not only better intestinal health, but also increased nutrient uptake, which may lead to lower sickness and mortality rates.
Pea protein is a limited alternative ingredient in most animal feeds at the moment. Nonetheless, its numerous benefits should make pea protein more appealing to producers, allowing it to be used more widely in human and animal nutrition.
Seaweed and Microalgae:
Seaweed and microalgae are highly promising alternatives for protein. Some microalgae strains produce large amounts of protein and could be a good source of protein for feed supplements.
For example, Cyanobacterium Arthrospira can contain up to 70% protein. Microalgae have essential amino acid profiles that are very similar to that of vegetable proteins such as Soya bean.
Furthermore, studies have shown that even a small amount of seaweed, such as Asparagopsis taxiformis and Asparagopsis armata, can reduce methane production by 98 percent. With 1.5 billion cows on the planet, seaweed has enormous potential to decrease methane emissions from cattle and dairy cows alone.
Yes insects! As in bugs! In addition to containing up to 82 percent protein and a variety of amino acids, insects are among the most efficient protein sources in terms of output per area of land.
The nutritional benefits of insects in animal diets extend beyond protein, with fatty acid content and antimicrobial peptides also showing promise.
Many people believe that using insects as animal feed makes biological sense because many species, particularly chickens and fish, eat insects naturally.
Integrating edible insects as alternative protein sources is an eco-friendly choice for the future of sustainable animal nutrition due to their high nutritional content and higher feed conversion efficiency.
In order to find long-term and sustainable solutions in livestock nutrition, the benefits of including edible insects in animal diets must be carefully examined. Decisions about the safe incorporation of insect protein into animal nutrition must be based on solid research.
Earthworm meal is made up of processed worms raised for vermicomposting, a method of composting that involves converting fruit and vegetable wastes, animal dung, methanizer residues, or sewage into organic soil amendments for agriculture and horticulture.
The worms produce and deposit it on the surface as a wormcast. Vermicomposting produces protein-rich earthworms as a byproduct. They can be fed to farm animals, particularly poultry, pigs, and aquaculture species.
Earthworm breeding could help to reduce waste and feed competition. From an economic and energy standpoint, earthworms may be easier to grow than insects because many earthworm species are adapted to a wider temperature range than insects.
Earthworms are now primarily used to produce vermicompost and to provide protein to farm animals and fish. One advantage of vermicomposting is that, unlike other composting processes, it does not produce off-odors.
Protein can also be obtained by cultivating various microbes and algae, preferably those with more than 30% protein in their biomass and capable of providing a healthy balance of essential amino acids.
Although some producing microbes, such as filamentous fungi or filamentous algae, may be multicellular, microbial protein is generally referred to as single cell protein (SCP).
In addition to their direct use as SCP, microbes contribute to protein demand by improving the quality of feed.
While SCPs are not new, technological and research advances are uncovering new potential for novel proteins to revolutionize the animal feed industry, particularly in aquaculture.
As demand for meat and animal products grows, one thing is certain: farmers and producers must develop cost-effective feed management approaches that are better for their animals and the environment.
It won't happen overnight, but even minor changes can add up as we look to feed the world’s livestock.
Until we mee again, Happy Grazing!
- The Dedicated Team of Pasture.io, 03 August 2022