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Background 2066 views update:Jun 14, 2010

Turkeys benefit from organic minerals

Organic minerals are gaining ground in animal nutrition, like in turkeys. These decrease mineral waste and meet the higher nutritional needs of the bird. Moreover, they provide a positive impact at slaughter facilities, in terms of quality and yield of meat. Organic minerals have a positive effect from farm to fork.

By Judd Culver, Alltech UK, and Katarzyna Sartowska, Alltech European Bioscience Centre, Dunboyne, Ireland

Turkeys today have a higher genetic potential than ever before and therefore require better performing nutrient sources in order to meet that genetic potential. Similar to a roadmap that helps you find your way, we need to choose the best direction with today’s technological advances. However, we have reached a fork in the road: organic vs. inorganic minerals.

The innovative part of the industry believes that organic trace minerals play an even more important role than traditional inorganic trace minerals did in the previous decades. Research has shown that organic trace minerals have the ability to be readily utilised by turkeys and will improve the quality as well as the nutritional value of the final product consumed, whilst decreasing the amount of mineral excretion and increasing efficiency.

General overview

The National Research Council (NRC) was established in 1916 for the purpose of providing scientific advice to the US government. Since then, minimal nutrient requirements for poultry have been (and are continually being) reviewed by the NRC throughout the decades. Although new NRC recommendations are released each decade, they are often estimates from old data. Nutritionists have been back and forth in discussions as to whether the nutritional requirements are accurate for modern commercial turkeys. Many, in fact, use a commercial standard, based on industry standards and their own knowledge, which actually exceeds the NRC recommendations. Although minerals are a necessity to a turkey’s life, until the past decade, there has been minimal incentive to further study minerals and their properties on production animals. Recently, however, trace minerals have been brought back into the lime light. This is due to many reasons, including the global nature of feedstuffs, concerns about mineral excretion, increased regulations, environmental awareness and, more specifically in the European Union, the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive. Organic minerals are one of the solutions to address these issues for turkeys as well as other livestock.

Minerals in nutrition

Minerals were sometimes overlooked in animal nutrition, due to the small quantity needed, but at the same time they are known to play roles in the immune, cellular, skeletal and endocrine systems; being important components within enzymes, vitamins, and amino acids. With all these functions they do have a large impact on the overall health and functionality of the flock, so it is crucial to know the exact requirements and bioavailability of sources used. Inorganic forms of trace minerals have been widely used in the past to supplement feed, before science provided us with the knowledge that we can introduce an organic chelated mineral, as found in nature, into the gut. The ionic form of an inorganic trace mineral allows us to attach (chelate) amino acids around it, hereby creating a so-called organic trace mineral that acts more like amino acids that can be more readily absorbed.

Organic minerals

Normally turkeys would consume minerals via grains and other plant material in which trace minerals would be naturally chelated with amino acids and small chains of amino acids (peptides). Many feedstuffs, however, do not supply enough of all the required minerals and so an additional source must be added. Inorganic minerals are easily obtained as a by-product from the mining industry and are widely used in the agricultural industry around the globe.

Importantly, turkeys do not convert sodium selenite (the industry standard form of selenium), to the amino acid needed by the animal’s tissues in an effective manner. Plant- derived organic minerals are more bio-available when compared to the inorganic trace minerals used commercially. This is because organic minerals are protected from chemical reactions in the gut, do not interact with other minerals, and are absorbed naturally. With selenium being one of the body’s major nutrients in the antioxidant defence system, and sodium selenite being the most oxidising and toxic form of selenium, it is easy to see the conflict of functions between organic selenium and inorganic selenium (sodium selenite).

Trial on organic minerals

Alltech has worked to provide trace minerals as nature intended, by chelating them with amino acids and small peptides, with their Bioplex® range of organic trace minerals.

A trial evaluating the effect of low inclusion levels of organic minerals on BUT male turkey performance compared commercial inclusion level of inorganic sources of minerals (15 ppm copper and 60 ppm zinc, iron and manganese – Inorg treatment) with reduced levels of minerals from organic sources (1/12, 1/6 and 1/3 of the inorganic inclusion level, groups Org 1, Org 2 and Org 3, respectively). The results of body weight development during growth are presented in Figure 1. Overall performance of all treatment groups was good, exceeding weight targets. Feed intake and FCR were similar for all treatments. Body weight of group Org 3 (1/3 of inorganic level) tended to be higher over the entire trial phase.

The results demonstrated that organic forms of minerals were able to maintain performance when supplemented in complete diets at inclusion levels far below NRC standards.

Meat quality and selenium

Another interesting trial with turkeys looked at meat quality depending on the level and source of selenium in the diet of BUT 9 females grown until 16 weeks of age. The negative control feeding group (Se-N) received a diet without selenium supplementation (level of Se from feed ingredients – 0.16 ppm). Two following treatments received a diet supplemented with 0.3 ppm Se from inorganic source (sodium selenite – SS group) or the organic source (Sel-Plex® – SP group). In this particular trial, no differences in growth performance were noted between groups. A better antioxidant status of SP birds was shown by significantly increased (P≤0.05) levels of enzyme glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity compared with other groups. Further detailed evaluation of meat quality revealed some more interesting findings. Samples from SP groups showed significantly (P≤0.05) increased breast muscle selenium concentrations, compared to Se-N and SS groups, (0.468 vs. 0.160 and 0.224 mg/kg) (Figure 2) proving the higher bioavailability of this form. Moreover, a reduction in drip loss during storing (by 13%) and cooking (by 5%) was noticed with organic Se supplementation, which would be a financial benefit for retailers.

Organic minerals and meat yield

The effect of organic minerals on meat yield of turkeys was investigated in a trial conducted in the US. A total of 1,260 Hybrid turkey toms were divided between four treatments, with nine repetitions each, kept under commercial conditions for 19 weeks. The diets fed were identical apart from the level and form of the minerals (manganese, zinc, copper, iron and selenium) included in the supplement. The positive control (PC) was a commercial supplement containing inorganic minerals. The negative control (NC) also contained inorganic minerals, but at 10% of the level in PC. The SP/BP 1 & 2 treatments both contained organic minerals, in the form of Bioplex and Sel-Plex. The levels in SP/BP 2 were the same in the starter, grower and finisher diets; in SP/BP 1, they were reduced by a third in the grower and finisher phases. Final body weight, feed consumption and FCR were similar in all treatments.

A reduction in mineral excretion in manure was noted (data not shown) for the SP/BP 1 & 2 treatments. Cold carcass weight (Figure 3) and breast meat yield was improved with the use of organic minerals.

Reap the benefits

As we demand more from our animals, we must demand more from our minerals. Organic trace minerals allow the industry to reap the full benefits of a flock’s genetic potential. Organic minerals provide a nutritional platform i.e. a direction on your roadmap to meet increasing demands on growth, immune responses and reproductive potential, through outstanding bioavailability.


Natalie Berkhout

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