Animal nutrition

‘Production efficiency is a big area for us’

“This facility creates lots of opportunities for our faculty to engage with the industry to find solutions to ‘big’ problems,” ​Rodney Johnson, Professor and Head, Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told FeedNavigator.

One such ‘big problem’ is meeting growing demand for animal protein, Johnson said.

“Demand for animal protein is expected to increase significantly in the next 20-30 years. One way the feed industry can meet this demand is to become more efficient and provide animals with a diet that is more closely aligned to their needs, thereby producing animal protein with less input. Production efficiency is a very big area for us.”

To support the feed industry’s drive to make animal diets more efficient, the new Feed Technology Center is a digitally connected facility with modern equipment that allows for precise diet formulations. It has full ingredient processing capabilities, including grinding, pre-mixing, mixing, pelleting, crumbling, bagging and a standalone extrusion line as well as an inline near infrared (NIR) system.

Analyzing nutrient content in real time

Johnson said that the NIR system will enable the nutrient content of different ingredients to be assessed in real time, facilitating the development of diets that are more closely aligned with an animal’s needs.

“Not every batch of soybean meal is the same – there is some variability in protein levels. Therefore the current practice is to over-formulate and put more protein into the diet than you need so you are not shortchanging the animals. If we can develop an approach using this system that allows us to assess the protein levels in soybean meal in real time, we can more precisely meet the nutritional requirements of the animal for maximum growth and efficiency,” ​said Johnson.