Conference provides global perspectives on animal nutrition

Published 16 July 2009

pigRelationships between animal production and both human health and the health of the planet were among the themes of a major international conference at the University of New England this week.

About 100 delegates from Australia and abroad gathered for the 20th biennial conference in a unique series: “Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition – Australia”. All 20 conferences have been held at UNE.

The opening speaker, Professor Andrew Sinclair from Deakin University, commented that UNE provided “a very positive location” for the conference, allowing national and international leaders in the field of animal nutrition to mingle freely in an “informal setting”.

Professor Sinclair, the President of the Nutrition Society of Australia, spoke about the need for closer links between people who work in agriculture and those who work in human nutrition. Emphasising the importance of producing healthy food, he spoke about the complexity of the current problem of obesity. “We live in an ‘obesogenic’ environment,” he said, “- an environment that entices us to eat more than we need to.”

Innovations to meet the challenges of climate change, and concerns about the Australian Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), were a major theme of the 2009 conference, which ran from the 12th to the 15th of July. The prominent Australian industry consultant Dr Robert van Barneveld and UNE’s Professor David Cottle spoke about the implications of the CPRS for the pig industry and the sheep industry respectively.

Dr van Barneveld said that new technologies – including the growing of algae to feed pigs – had the potential to reduce carbon emissions in pork production to zero, but that the CPRS (which, he said, was “effectively a tax”) provided the industry with no incentives to implement these advances.

Dr Roger Hegarty from the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Dr Bob Hunter from CSIRO’s Division of Livestock Industries provided the latest information on ways of reducing the production of methane by cattle and sheep, and several papers by UNE scientists highlighted the potential for a new method of reducing methane output in these animals by using a dietary supplement containing nitrate instead of urea.

A number of presentations by delegates from abroad provided the conference with information on a range of recent nutritional advances. One of these, presented by Dr Aaron Cowieson from AB Vista Feed Ingredients in the UK, dealt with the use of feed enzymes to enhance amino acid digestibility in the diets of pigs and poultry.

UNE’s Dr Darryl Savage, who chaired the organising committee for the conference, said that “Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition” was unique in Australia in bringing together the commercial and research sectors of the animal nutrition community. Over the years, he said, “Recent Advances” had developed “from a small, informal meeting of animal nutrition scientists to Australia’s leading animal nutrition conference, attracting researchers and practitioners from throughout the world”.

One of the delegates – Tony Edwards, a livestock consultant from South Australia – has attended all 20 of the conferences at UNE. “It’s been a fascinating progression,” said Mr Edwards, a UNE Rural Science graduate, who reviewed nutritional developments in the pig industry since the conference series began.

“As several hundred papers have been presented at ‘Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition – Australia’ conferences since 1973,” he said, “it is easy to overlook significant breakthroughs that were first posed or developed within this forum and have become common practice for nutritionists across the world.”

A PHOTOGRAPH of Dr Darryl Savage (left) and Tony Edwards can be seen by clicking on the image displayed here.