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ED&F Man Conference; From Sugars to Liquid Feeds, from Research to the Future...

Last week, myself and Debby Brown, DN Technical Manager, attended the nutritional conference “From sugars to liquid feeds, from research to the future”, hosted by ED&F Man in Verona, Italy. The aim of the conference was to showcase their recent research and development work into Molasses composition and how we can better understand how sugars and other liquid ingredients behave in the rumen.

The conference took place over two days and featured lectures from guest speakers from the USA, Canada and Italy.

First, the importance of rumen microbial ecology was discussed, as proper development and maintenance of this microbial community is vital in ensuring a cow remains healthy and productive. Diet has proven to be the main driver influencing the proportions of microbes (bacteria, funghi, protozoa and archaea) in the rumen and understanding principles of microbial ecology can help us to predict and interpret the response of a dairy herd to dietary modification.

Next, sugars as a “functional nutrient” were discussed, suggesting that we should consider sugars as having a greater contribution to the host (the animal) than that which their calorific value would suggest. This is because sugars aid in the transport of volatile fatty acids (VFAs), produced by microbial fermentation of fibre, starch and other substrates, from the rumen into the bloodstream. This mechanism also helps to stabilize rumen pH by reducing the amount of substrate available for rumen fermentation. Critically, it was noted sugars can be used to replace some starch in diets without affecting animal response.

Later, it was highlighted that there are significant differences in molasses compositions, depending on type and origin, and that accurate characterisation is essential in order to fully optimise feeding. The benefits of liquid feeds were also discussed as they should be considered not solely as a carrier of sugars, but also of other substrates such as minerals and additives. The use of liquid feeds rich in sugars and other soluble components is a practical and easy way to properly integrate and balance rations in terms of specific nutrients able to:

  • Increase dry matter intake (DMI), milk production and fat content

  • Manipulate rumen and intestinal fermentation

  • Improve fibre digestion (by increase the bacterial population which digests fibre) and nutritional efficiency

  • Reduce the risk of metabolic disorders such as rumen sub-acidosis (by helping to remove VFAs from the rumen and stabilise pH)

Key points to remember:

  • Different types and sources of sugars behave differently and are used differently by rumen bacteria

  • Liquid sugars have a high degradation rate and supply rapidly-available energy

  • We know the exact composition of molasses and liquid feeds and therefore can optimise feeding using them

  • The value of sugar goes beyond its “on-paper” nutritional characteristics

It was great to hear about the current research going on in this field and how we can apply this information to benefit animal health and production. Although we have made big advances, there is still a lot to discover and understand about sugars in order to really utilise them to their full potential.

Naomi Shuker

Formulations & Quality Manger

To find out more about how sugars can help your herd, please contact your DN representative.

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