There are certain enzymes that we are more familiar with, such as the amylase I have discussed in an earlier blog. Amylases break down starches. Lipases break down fats, and proteases break down proteins. However, one of the most widely used enzymes in the animal feed industry is an enzyme called phytase. The substrate of phytase (the molecule that it acts upon) is phytic acid, an organic form of phosphorus found in grains and seeds. Why does this matter? Monogastric animals (non-ruminants) cannot produce (a significant amount) of their own phytase. Therefore, they can’t break down phytic acid in their diet, so they can’t utilize phosphorus from this source. This form of phosphorus ends up passing out of the animal in its undigested form. This is not only wasteful, but also is a significant contributor to phosphate pollution in the environment.
One industry that uses phytase supplementation extensively is the poultry farming industry. Birds are raised in the most cost-effective manner, which requires maximum utilization of their feed. If they are passing a phosphorus source through their systems without using it, they are throwing away the farmers’ money. In this case, the owner of the operation will have to supplement with additional phosphorus to meet the birds’ dietary needs. The most cost-effective solution is to add phytase to the feed. This way, less supplemental phosphorus is needed, and there is less phosphate pollution in the birds’ waste. Other enzymes, such as xylanases and mannanases are also extremely beneficial in poultry farming to maximize feed utilization. They similarly break down parts of the diet that are otherwise indigestible to the animals. These are increasing in use, especially as consumers demand foods grown without the use of as many medications and antibiotics.
Swine growers often use phytase for the same reasons as poultry growers. It helps to increase available phosphorus in the diet while reducing environmental pollution. Phytase can also be included in equine supplements in combination with several other beneficial enzymes. The way to optimize effectiveness is to choose the particular enzymes and dosages based on the feed components and the nutritional needs of the animal. Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding enzymes in animal feed, or with any suggestions for a blog topic! firstname.lastname@example.org