Nutrition is an ever-evolving science, as is the role that additives can play. Whether it’s humans or animals, the research on additives is constantly advancing, often on the basis that new products will improve health, productivity and well-being. We spoke to Richard Sygall, a veterinarian and innovation manager at Perstorp, to find out more about how research and innovation is shaping the future of animal gut health.
In the feed industry, animal gut health is one of the most important factors not only for the wellbeing of the animal, but also for the quality and quantity of the produce. Animal gut health has been increasingly receiving attention worldwide as more and more countries are banning the use of antibiotics as growth promoters.
The removal of antibiotics from the day-to-day diets of animals has led to some challenges regarding gut health and productivity in the industry, and Perstorp is looking to be at the forefront when it comes to offering solutions for these challenges.
Hi Richard. Please can you tell us more about your role at Perstorp?
“I work in the innovation department, where my role is dedicated to the Feed & Food Business Area. My role is officially market development, which means introducing new
products to existing and new markets, as well as established products to new markets. I’m a veterinarian, not a nutritionist, so I tend to approach it from that perspective.
What factors have had the biggest impact on the industry?
Feed additives are ingested with the feed by the animal, where it is all metabolized and taken up in the gut. This gut interface is where the nutritionist and veterinarian meet. The physiological response that occurs is where I focus my attention.”
“I try to keep abreast of all global gut health developments too by attending conferences and seminars. What is the market looking for, what problems are they facing and how can we help?”
“Another part of my role is that when we develop a new molecule in response to market requirements, I need to verify and quantify the effects in real life situations in the different markets.”
“Overall, though, my role is to try and improve gut health for animals through the use of additives.”
“Definitely the ban on using antibiotics as antimicrobial growth promoters, but what’s interesting about this is that it was actually a consumer demand that led to many of the bans in various regions around the world. For example, in the 1980s in Sweden, food producers called for the banning of antibiotics as growth promotors, but the important distinction is that it was the consumer who demanded this.”
“This has created some challenges in intestinal health, which prompted large scale research into, not only the function of the intestine, but also into the inhabitants of the gut, the microflora. What bacteria are there, should they be there, should they not be there and in what proportion?”
What can be done to improve gut health now?
“Firstly, how do you qualify gut health? Is it the absence of disease, or does the gut need to meet a pre-defined balance of the different bacteria? There are lots of definitions, but the most important, in my opinion, is absence of disease and subclinical disease. Especially as subclinical disease is not easily diagnosed but can harm production.”
“The research I do is geared towards restoring and maintaining the balance of the microflora and as such gut health. We are trying to make the gut and therefore the animal more resilient to pathogenic pressure.”
How will this impact the future of animal gut health?
“Well, in the next couple of years I think there will be an ever-bigger focus on the microflora in the gut. Not just the bacteria that are there, but the bacteria that are active/functional (metatranscriptomics). Then there is signaling, the interactions that take place between all of these different types of microbe as well as the intestinal wall. It is a huge and very exciting research area.”
“Fundamentally, we can’t live without microbes, so we need to know more about them, and learn how we can influence the balance in order to keep animals healthy. Perstorp is dedicated to finding solutions which help with this balance, and we carry out a lot of research in this area to help increase the understanding of this highly complex environment.”
“Overall, the decreasing use of antibiotics as growth promotors is actually having a positive effect on farming though, as it has led to improved farming standards. The antibiotic growth promotors have sometimes in the past been used as a crutch, so without that the farm management has had to evolve.”
“Management is key, and it’s probably the most important factor in healthy animal production going forward, and it is improving. I think this is because knowledge and research is now more freely available, so it’s really helping the standards in farming, and consequentially improving the state of animal gut health and consequently animal production.”