Episode 17_1

Highlights from Midwest AS with Evonik’s Dr. Caroline Gonzalez-Vega

Part 1 of 3: In this week’s episode we are reviewing Midwest ASAS meetings with Evonik’s Dr. Caroline Gonzalez-Vega. She will discuss the advances made in amino acid and protein nutrition on the opportunities for improved efficiency and feed cost savings.

Hi everyone.  We’re gonna do something a little different. We’re still virtually everywhere today, right? Normally, us swine nutritionists, everywhere in the US, will meet every March in the city of Omaha for Midwest ASAS Meetings. It’s the leading swine scientific meeting of the year for probably North America.  We didn’t have that opportunity to catch up in person, so I wanted to get some feedback from some of my nutritional colleagues out there about the research presented and how we can apply it for producers around the world. During the Midwest meetings, I think it’s the most scientific presentations I either sat through or watched or read about, so I was really excited about the opportunity to have a virtual format to go back and watch whatever presentation I wanted to at the time.  So that was really great about the aspect of the virtual meetings.  The downside to that was you didn’t have the interaction or the feedback from your trusted colleagues.  Do they agree with you?  Did you make the right interpretation?

So, part of it is networking. As you all know, the Real P3 is trying to bridge that gap.  So, we’re going to highlight some of the presentations here that we liked.  There was a lot of interest.  I think there was a good discussion around statistics, and then I co-led with my friend Jon Bergstrom a symposium on replacing antibiotics in US swine diets.  I think that was really interesting.  We had different insights from Australia, Denmark, to the US.  We had veterinarians and nutritionists alike talk about the changes we need to make to go antibiotic free or reduce the antibiotics we use. I followed up at the end kind of summarizing different strategies of how to make that successful.

So, I think we had really good attention and feedback from the people who listened to that symposium, and it was really enjoyed.  There was a lot of awesome competition presentations done by different students across the different universities represented at Midwest Animal Science.  We had an academic quadrathlon and we had an awards dinner.  All that was virtual, so I think the experience was definitely different than being in person, but I do want to thank the ASAS colleagues there and the board and all of them; they did a really great job pulling it off.  And I want to thank all the universities, all the students, all the researchers.  You guys are rocking it, right?  It takes a lot to bring your research, not only to do the work on the farm, but to bring it to an audience, and I want to commend you all for all the hard work you’ve put in over the last couple of years for the industry and the value you bring to us.

So, part 1 of 3, we’re going to visit with Caroline Vega-Gonzales with Evonik.  I think she’s going to have an interesting take on some of the protein work that was presented this week at Midwest Animal Science, so stay tuned.


Casey: Hello there, Caroline, how are you today?

Caroline: Good, Casey.  How are you doing?

Casey: Well, it’s raining here in Arkansas, so it’s going to be a weekend indoors again.

Caroline: Yeah, here in Germany, it’s shiny, so that’s good.

Casey: Would you mind telling the audience a little about yourself and why you’re in Germany?

Caroline: Yeah, sure, so I’m working currently at Evonik in the swine research manager position.  As you know, Evonik is a Germany company and we have here the headquarters which is where we have the research team. I have been with Evonik already 5 years.  My first two years was as a PSM in North America; 3 years already I have been here on the research swine team.

Casey: Cool.  Well, this week we just wrapped up MidWest Animal Science.  Of course, a little delayed when our listeners get the feed.  Can you share some highlights or tell us what you enjoyed about the presentations and any insights you feel the pork producers need to have from Midwest Animal Science this week?

Caroline: So, I really enjoy Midwest meetings. As always, I never get disappointed at the amount of information everyone brings into these meetings.  I think it’s a great way to interchange information, get new ideas, discuss and bring solutions to the industry, to try to bring updates or new concepts where we can improve efficiency of production.  What I like from this last Midwest meeting is that we are addressing key points, especially in the area of amino acids, where we are addressing that we do not have to forget that amino acids are not only meant for protein disposition or growth, but also play important roles into the gut health or whole health system of the animal. We need to take advantage of these functions, especially as we reduce the usage of certain feed additives or antibiotics in the future, zinc-oxide.  We need to take advantage of all these nutrients already to make the animals better prepared for the challenges.

Also, as you saw in many presentations, bringing solutions also with many feed additives to try to bring solutions to what the customer needs.  That is great, from that regard. As a whole industry we are trying to work together to maximize the efficiency of utilization of feed ingredients, all this system into better production and a more sustainable way.


Casey: I got a unique question from a friend across the world. He asked me if I was a student based on what I presented on feed additives.  He asked what’s the number one thing for swine or poultry do we need to remove antibiotics from the diets. I said, primarily I think the big takeaway from a lot of the presentations this week was protein digestibility, and I would also throw in overall digestibility.  A lot of your graduate work was on calcium digestibility.  Now you’re working a lot with amino acids and stuff.  How important do you think ultimate digestibility is going to be to remove some of these antibiotics and high levels of zincs that was talked about and is continuously talked about in the industry?

Caroline: Yeah, so we see that when we remove these antibiotics, for instance, we see that the requirement of some of the amino acids increases, and this is because of the functional role of these amino acids into the antioxidant capacity or into the immune response mechanisms.  As the animals are more challenged and exposed to these diseases and they don’t have these AGPs that will help them to mitigate the negative effects of these challenges, the animals will end up needing more of these key amino acids.  For sure, it plays an important role in the whole animal’s system.

Casey: I think this goes back to Marcio’s comment he shared with us is that we need some tools, because it is hard to put in phytase matrix values and not all formulation tools even have multi-linear regression in there that you can put in different enzymes.  How are we going to formulate on that?  Everybody can put their own equations in, but what tools are coming out to help producers implement these different requirements for different flows.  We’re not just managing a single group of pigs anymore, we have multiple flows, so what tools to we need to really be able to do that?

Caroline: I think it’s very important to give the animals what they need to be able to improve the gut health integrity of the animal.  At the end, that’s the mechanisms they are going to use to absorb all these nutrients for growth.  So, if we optimize the gut health integrity, providing the right nutrients and also taking advantage of the fiber, and the combination of the feed additives you mentioned and all these gut health additives that are already in the market: enzymes, probiotics, fetal-biotics, organic acids, you name it.  So, you just have to find the right ones that will fit to your system.  Based on that to provide what the animals need it will maximize the performance of the animal.

We have come to a point of finding biological markers where we can track what is the health status of the animal, what type of challenges they are facing to provide the right solution?  Sometimes it may be a nutritional challenge, and sometimes a pathogenic challenge, or sometimes just a management issue.  The more we record as a whole production system, the better.  More technologies are coming to the farms and you see amazing things already with face recognition and all those things that with time will get cheaper and we’ll make amazing things.  The cameras already are recording the movement of the pigs, the temperatures… things like that. We are coming to a point where in the future we will be able to track individually, maybe detect in an earlier stage the health status of the piglet.

Casey: I’m still looking for someone to build my cookie bot.  So, we’ll see if that cookie bot can come into play. For the producers listening to this, define gut health in a simple terminology that they understand.  We talk about it all the time, but what does it really mean for the producer?

Caroline: So gut health as an integrity is that there is not inflammation respond right that the gut is able to absorb the nutrients that it needs, so adequate morphology and surface area of absorption development and growth.  The right expression of proteins to have an adequate integrity that is not that much to create this leaky gut and bacteria occurring.  Trying to find a balance where the gut will maintain integrity for proper absorption of the nutrients.

Casey: You can see a lot in your gut health in your poop if you’re just looking at it.  All those lovely phone calls I used to get because of the infamous poop watchers.

Caroline: Yes.

Casey: Thank you, Caroline, for your insight.  I think you hit the nail on the head in the theme of constantly focusing on digestibility and getting those amino acids right in nutrition is something that we need to keep looking at and considering for our systems.

Caroline: No problem, thanks for the invitation.  We are working hard to bring solutions to the industry and to bring more insights and concepts to improve the whole production system.

Before we go, I want to say thank you to our sponsors – The Sunswine Group, NutraSign, Swine Nutrition Management and Pig Progress, and thank you Evonik for your support along the way.  If you get a chance, Hug a pig for me.