Making dollars and sense out of nutrigenomics

  • Nutrigenomics research delivers numerous advantages, especially in beef feedlot studies.
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Noo-tri-jee-noh-miks: the official pronunciation of nutrigenomics. It’s difficult to say, and it can be even more difficult to understand.
 
In its simplest definition, nutrigenomics is the study of how diet affects gene expression. Even more simply put, nutrigenomics looks at what a person or animal eats and studies how their body responds to it.
 
Nutrigenomics is a relatively new and quickly evolving scientific field. Fortunately, Alltech has been at the forefront of this research for almost a decade. In 2008, Alltech opened the world’s first fully dedicated nutrigenomics and epigenetics lab at the Alltech Center for Animal Nutrigenomics and Applied Animal Nutrition in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Nutrigenomics’ true implications are only now being understood.
 

What value can nutrigenomics bring to animal nutrition research, specifically beef research?

 

1) Traditional research is slow; nutrigenomics is fast.

Compared to poultry or swine research, beef research is horrendously slow. The weeks or months necessary to study other species pales in comparison to the often three to four years needed to capture appropriate lifecycle data for beef cattle. As a result, innovation becomes more challenging and time-consuming for researchers. Many industry products have remained the same for more than 30 years.
 
Nutrigenomics produces data almost immediately, and information can be gathered while cattle are still alive.
 

2) Traditional research gives us just one (or, sometimes, a few) key data points; nutrigenomics gives us 22,000.

 
With the use of micro-array technology, Alltech uses a specialized gene chip that utilizes tissue samples to show almost instantaneously how a change in diet (or any environmental change) has affected gene expression. The more than 22,000 data points on a gene chip produce a digital reading that shows whether each specific gene is turned on (shown in the reading as “hot”) or turned off (shown in the reading as “cool”). This high volume of data is read using specialized software to inform researchers which pathways have been most affected by a change in diet. This breakthrough dramatically decreases the time needed to conduct and evaluate research.
 
Conversely, traditional research can only look at one issue (or a few issues) at a time and is therefore limited in the depth of its findings. 
 
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3) Traditional research explains often only what happened; nutrigenomics tells researcher not only what but also why changes happen within cattle.  

 
For instance, Alltech has pinpointed the specific feed ingredients necessary to optimize lean tissue deposition — a key performance parameter in feedlot cattle. Through nutrigenomics, the metabolic pathways crucial to muscle growth have been identified, and as a result, both what has changed (i.e. increased weight gain) and why it has changed (i.e. improvements in energy metabolism) can be observed by researchers. To produce the scale and scientific scope necessary to make these conclusions through traditional research techniques would require investments of time, money and cattle that are simply not feasible in most circumstances. 

 

Making nutrigenomics profitable: EPNIX®

 
Now, Alltech is beginning to see the first fruits of its nutrigenomics research in beef. Through more than eight years of nutrigenomic refinement and repeated testing in large-pen commercial feed yards, Alltech is proud to launch its new feedlot technology, EPNIX®.
 
Named to reflect its epigenetic and nutrigenomic roots, EPNIX is a two-part feedlot technology designed to support the carcass weight and dressing percentage of finishing cattle. It is fortified with 100 percent organic trace minerals and is delivered with strategic supplementation through both a receiving and a finishing technology. EPNIX optimizes rumen function and systemic metabolism, bringing new innovation and value to feedlot production.
 
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Yet the challenge faced by any new innovation is twofold: Is it relevant, and does it provide a return on investment
 
Designed without antibiotics or antimicrobials, EPNIX is formulated to comply with relevant changes in feeding regulations, such as the Veterinary Feed Directive. To further validate its formulation, EPNIX is certified by IMI Global as a Feed Verified ingredient for use in Verified Natural Beef, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle and Global Animal Partnership programs.
 
Additionally, EPNIX focuses on delivering profitable returns to producers. In repeated, large-pen studies, EPNIX has demonstrated improvements in overall performance and has supported carcass weight gains, which are key to profitability.
 
To explain the research on and key concepts of EPNIX, Alltech recently hosted a webinar led by Dave Pfenninger, Alltech territory sales manager, and Dr. Vaughn Holder, head of beef research for Alltech. Click below to watch the Alltech Beef Innovations17 webinar, in which they discuss EPNIX and the future of feeding cattle with Alltech solutions:
 
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For more information on EPNIX, nutrigenomics or Alltech’s beef technologies, contact your local Alltech representative or e-mail beef@alltech.com.