Involved in a panel discussion on minerals and their beneficial effects on animal performance at Feed Additives 2017 held in Frankfurt, Germany in late-September, Scott Hine, Vice President of Products & Solutions, and Chief Innovation Officer, Novus International, recently spoke to Feedinfo News Service about his company’s organic trace mineral R&D pipeline and the areas of focus ahead.

Mr. Hine, according to Novus’s CEO François Fraudeau, trace minerals are ranked second after methionine in the list of core technology platforms that define Novus. What would you like to say from your Chief Innovation Officer’s standpoint?

From an innovation standpoint, I see the mineral platform as a vast expanse of opportunity. We plan to continue to invest in research in this area and have the full support of our parent companies and partners across the industry. Providing quality mineral solutions to our customers is a strong pillar of the Novus business. Some of our customers have been using ALIMET® since Novus’s inception, and that remains a foundational offering. But, MINTREX was born from our HMTBa technology and is exceptional in its ability to optimize nutrition and enhance animal health, performance and reduce the environmental impact of mineral supplementation. The discoveries we’ve made in the past few years alone have proven that there are benefits to quality, organic trace mineral supplementation. These discoveries have exceeded our expectations repeatedly, and have a direct impacts on our customers’ profitability.

It was recently made public that MINTREX can be used in nutritional interventional strategies to reduce the incidence of myopathies (such as white striping and woody breast) in poultry. Why single out this function in particular?

It’s really a win-win for poultry producers. Recent increases in muscle myopathies around the world prompted us to leverage our understanding of animal physiology and the potential benefits MINTREX might deliver in reducing incidence of these myopathies while still promoting healthy growth. Our customers, and the industry at large really, are demanding an actionable solution to woody breast and white striping, due to the more than $200 million USD in impact in the U.S. alone, and we delivered. Producers can see the impact on their profitability now with proper implementation. To get here, we investigated the development of viable solutions based on our deep understanding of the issues, and our poultry scientists determined that supplementing MINTREX trace minerals in combination with SANTOQUIN® feed preservative could in fact reduce the severity of woody breast and white striping by up to 50 percent without sacrificing performance. The practicality of using trace minerals to address this issue is an invaluable benefit we didn’t want to keep to ourselves.

Antibiotic-free production of meat and eggs worldwide is a major trend influencing trace mineral demand. This is particularly true in North America at the moment. Where else in the world do you see momentum?

Antibiotic-free production is gaining momentum all over the world and is mainly a result of consumer demand. It’s also not isolated to one region or even continent; we’re seeing this shift globally whether the regulation is there or not. As a global company, Novus is truly one of the best companies to help customers looking to transition into ABF production – we have the experience and proven products to deliver. We’ve already helped many producers in Europe and North America make adjustments to their nutrition programs. Through our North American-based program, Project Horizon, we have some of the industry’s leading scientists in gut health at our customers’ disposal to collaborate in development of strategies using minerals and enzymes, among others, to create optimum gut health conditions, even when challenged, with proven results. This directly affects producers’ profitability and their ability to meet both their business goals and the standards of the modern animal protein consumer.

At Feed Additives 2017 you said it is important to study the full holistic effects of mineral nutrition. Would you like to further discuss what you mean by Novus’s holistic approach?

Oftentimes, the greatest benefits to producers arise from the understanding of the interconnectivity of each function from digestion to tissue development to reproductive performance. For example, we build our own diets based on balancing the things we need like protein, fruits and vegetables because these all add essential components to a healthy diet. If we only focused on protein, other essential nutrients would be deficient and cause us harm over time. This is the same for livestock. If we look at solving just one problem, we can miss the larger benefit of a balanced combination – that is what we mean by “holistic”. It is taking multiple points of view on the benefits of MINTREX in organic trace mineral nutrition. The success of this technique is clear in the observed benefits from the combination of MINTREX and another Novus product that is a protected benzoic acid-based feed supplement called PROVENIA® that can help improve gut health in piglets during the post-weaning period. The holistic approach takes both the gut and tissue integrity and the digestive system into consideration when formulating the best solution, rather than applying one product to improve gut integrity and another to improve digestion. By looking at obstacles in a synergistic manner, greater potential can be unlocked for the animal and performance expectations exceeded for the producer through a more fitting solution.

It is estimated that some companies today reject approximately 30% of raw materials used in the manufacture of feed minerals due to impurities. What are the reasons for this and what does that say about the testing systems in place?

I believe there are two perspectives in this regard. One is that a rejection rate of 30% indicates that a wide range of vendor quality exists, and 30% of them are not meeting customer and/or regulatory needs. This puts the burden on the feed additive producer’s specifications and analytical methods as the “last line of defense.” Another perspective could be that inadequate vendor qualification and audit processes are in place and possibly no pre-testing of raw materials before shipment from the vendor to the feed additive producer. It would logically follow that companies with high rejection rates could be purchasing material on the spot market from whoever happens to have the lowest price that day, instead of from pre-qualified long-term suppliers. With spot purchases, it’s entirely possible to buy from a new or different supplier every time, which leads to inconsistent quality. It is not uncommon to read or hear about fraudulent quality certifications that were the root cause of an out-of-spec. product or shipment. A feed additive company’s procurement strategy should prioritize animal health and customer supply security above all else, including cost. Novus puts its customers first and will not take the risk of interrupting supply just to save a few pennies.

Can you provide an overview of Novus’ efforts to reduce the risk of feed mineral raw material contamination? What initiatives are undertaken by the company at raw material supplier level?

Our procurement strategy is proactive. Each of our vendors goes through a stringent vendor qualification process that includes thorough testing of multiple lots of material and an on-site audit by representatives of our Quality Assurance and Procurement teams. We audit against consistent standards in the Novus Quality Management System that are regularly reviewed and updated. Many potential suppliers don’t make it past this stage due to the rigorous standards we enforce. Our methodology clearly adds a bit of time and cost but our obligation is to protect the reputation of our customers, Novus and the industry. Quality is a “pay now or pay later situation” for all industry participants. In the long run, it is way better to prevent problems from occurring than it is to pay for them afterwards. Our processes eliminate potential supply disruptions to customers and potentially costly product withdrawals or recalls. A 30% rejection rate would be deemed beyond unacceptable at Novus and immediately addressed. Thus, producers facing feed ingredient variances and inconsistent quality from other companies can rest assured that the all products they receive this week and next year from Novus will be the same high quality product that delivers the results they pay for.

At Feed Additives 2017, a lot of the discussions were naturally centered on the common minerals zinc and copper (due to their multiple activities) – categories in which Novus is present with MINTREX® Zn and MINTREX® Cu. But selenium, and to another extent chromium and iodine are also showing promise. Is Novus also looking at incorporating new trace minerals in its MINTREX range?

Overall, the best thing we can do to serve our customers is to focus on the areas where we can have the biggest impact on their business and solve their most imperative problems. We continue to stay open and up-to-date on research on other minerals, but the area with the largest customer impact remains in developing new applications and insight into our current mineral offerings. These investigations help us better collaborate with producers to get the greatest benefits possible from their operations and from Novus’s mineral products. Recently, we have been focusing our mineral research on MINTREX® forumulations with zinc, copper and manganese which have had proven impacts in poultry and swine meat quality. Having said that, we are always looking for unique solutions and products to solve customer problems as well as ways to strengthen our leadership in core platforms like minerals. From an R&D standpoint, we want to make sure any new product is positioned to help customers meet the needs of a growing global population. We have a very active product development group looking at new technologies in minerals and other Novus product platforms.

Are there other key functions of MINTREX that are being investigated in 2018?

Traditionally, minerals were used with the basic intention of supporting improved bone and structural health, but now that’s almost an afterthought when you look at the benefits of organic trace minerals recorded in a multitude of applications including five of our top priority areas:

Epigenetics: Instead of focusing on the challenges of the piglet and chick, nutritionists can better feed the sow or hen with quality trace minerals to give her progeny a better start before they’re challenged through enhanced gene expression in the offspring.

Meat and carcass quality: In the face of modern challenges such as woody breast and white striping, MINTREX helps significanlty reduce the severity of myopathies, and the highly bioavailable mineral supports increased egg shell quality, hatchability and chick quality.

Antibiotic-free production: MINTREX trace minerals are a key component of a combination approach to face the obstacles of antibiotic-free production and allow the animals to reach their full peformance potential.

Livestock longevity and reproductive performance: High cull/replacement rates can be devastatingly costly. We’re researching how chelated trace minerals can be used to reduce lameness and reproductive performance declines to increase the productive lifespans of sows, dairy cows and breeder hens.

Egg hatchability and quality: Trace minerals play an important role in all sides of egg production from egg shell strength to hatchability to the quality of the chick produced. Supplements like MINTREX Zn and MINTREX Cu can significantly impact the number of hatchable eggs over a hen’s lifetime.

Given the ever-increasing level of importance placed on mineral nutrition, the benefits of new applications and synergistic combinations with other feed additives which deliver additional benefits to animal health and performance are where producers can expect to see MINTREX add value to their bottom lines. While the mode of action may be complex, the solution is not – and that is what we’re all working for – practical solutions for producers. In summary, I think you’ll see the ever-increasing benefits of MINTREX continue to be developed into 2018 and beyond.

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