Animal nutrition experts tackle environmental challenges

Published 15 July 2011

cronjeScientists and industry representatives from around the world met at the University of New England this week for the University’s biennial “Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition – Australia” conference.

Coming from about a dozen countries, including Iran, Egypt, Malaysia, the Philippines, India, China, Fiji, The Netherlands, Singapore and the United States, they discussed ways of improving the nutritional efficiency of animal production while reducing its impact on the environment.

“The central feature of this conference is that greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution, nitrogen recycling and biofuel production are emerging as drivers of the livestock research agenda,” said Dr Pierre Cronjé (pictured here), Chair of the organising committee.

A major theme of the conference was feed conversion efficiency. “In the past, feed conversion efficiency has been pursued mainly because of the related cost benefits,” Dr Cronjé said. “Now, however, the emphasis is shifting to its environmental benefits in reducing emissions and effluent.”

“It is evident that improvement of feed conversion efficiency has risen to the top of the contemporary research agenda,” he said, “and the contributions to this conference show that the livestock industry is eminently capable of increasing the supply of animal products without harming the environment notwithstanding the dwindling availability of feed grains.”

The biennial “Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition – Australia” conference has been held at UNE for the past 34 years. It is unique in Australia in facilitating interaction between the commercial and research sectors of the animal nutrition community and promoting discussion and debate on recent advances and future trends in animal nutrition. “It’s where science and industry come together,” said UNE’s Professor of Animal Nutrition, Roger Hegarty, noting that some of the delegates had been attending “Recent Advances” conferences for the past three decades, and one delegate had actually been to every one of them.

Another major theme of this year’s conference was feed additives in animal nutrition – in the interests of production efficiency, food quality, and the reduction of emissions. One paper dealt with the use of garlic oil in the diet of lactating buffaloes to reduce methane emissions. “A range of natural products, including essential oils, is gaining favour in reducing emissions,” Dr Cronjé said.

“Ruminants produce methane, which has implications for global warming,” said Dr Hink Perdok from the global feed company Provimi Holding, who travelled from The Netherlands to the conference. “By nutritional means we can solve that problem.”