“Protein quality has a direct and transcendent impact on feed quality”
Interview with Mr. Alfonso A. Sobalvarro, doctor in Veterinary Medicine and specialist in Pharmacology and Toxicology
Authors: Albert Curto and María Sabaté
Alfonso A. Sobalvarro-Abril has a degree in Veterinary Medicine from the University of San Carlos de Guatemala and a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in the area of Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Veterinary Medicine of Hannover, Germany. For more than 25 years, he has developed his carreer in the field of animal nutrition and has held several managerial positions in leading agri-food industries, operating in Central America and some English-speaking Caribbean countries, such as Jamaica and Tinidad&Tobago.
Dr. Sobalvarro is, since 2005, the Regional Nutrition Director in the Guatemala City-based Livestock Industry – Corporación Multi-Inversiones IP-CML, with business lines both in Guatemala and other Central American countries, such as Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica.
On the occasion of the 32nd Biovet’s International Symposium, Dr. Sobalvarro visited Tarragona and gave the lecture entitled “Use of Alquernat Zycox and Alquernat Nebsui in the production of free-range broiler and anticoccidial antibiotics”.
You have more than 25 years of experience in animal nutrition. What have been the most remarkable advances in the feed formulation sector during these years?
I believe that one of the most important advances has been the formulation of animal feed by the Ideal Protein system, which has allowed to manage the levels of essential amino acids to meet each animal species’ daily requirements. In doing so, the excess of nitrogen in the diet and the emissions of this element in the environment have been avoided. Previously, when feed formulation was carried out through the Raw Protein system, performance rates in each animal species were not ideal.
The manufacture of balanced feed for animal production requires the availability of raw materials. How does price oscillation of these affect final formulation quality and its competitiveness in the market?
High raw material costs have a direct impact on the final cost of the finished product. I consider it an error to reduce the cost of diets by using by-products to cheapen them at the expense of quality. We should keep in mind that the cheapest diet is, in most cases, not the best.
How does protein quality affect overall feed quality?
Protein quality has a direct and transcendental impact on the quality of the feed. In this case, we are talking about the biological quality of the protein and it depends on the content of essential amino acids. We need to bear in mind that the essential amino acids are those that animals cannot completely synthesize, or cannot synthesize them at all. The deficiency of one of these amino acids will hinder the animal specific protein synthesis and limit its potential for growth or productivity.
You are aware of the use and action of pronutrients and other natural additives for animal nutrition and health. What role do these additives have in the overall nutritional improvement and feed performance?
We should first acknowledge that a pronutrient is a micro ingredient included in feed in order to stimulate specific animal’s physiological and microbiological systems. The main function of pronutrients is to foster performance of zootechnically important animals; something that was previously achieved by using antibiotics in low doses. However, nowadays antibiotic prophylaxis has been banned in some countries, as they are considered to contribute to the dispersion of infectious resistance, especially in Gram-negative bacteria.
From the point of view of poultry producers in Central America, how has the perception changed in aspects such as food safety measures?
Poultry producers are committed to provide high quality animal products, which guarantee current health and safety standards to the final consumer.
And from the consumer’s point of view?
Consumers are every day more concerned in verifying that animal products available in the market are safe and deliver on quality according to the price they pay for them.
As it has already been mentioned, the European Union has imposed restrictions on the prophylactic use of antibiotics in recent years. What is the situation in Guatemala and Central America?
In Guatemala and Central America there are still no official restrictions for the prophylactic use of antibiotics. Nowadays, companies are taking care of it by following global trends in this matter. In doing so, what is sought is to be ready in the moment when national authorities take similar regulatory stands on this particular use of antibiotics.
Being a doctorate in Pharmacology and Toxicology, do you think that pronutrients and other additives of botanical origin are an effective and a real substitute to antibiotics?
Definitely, they can be. Although not with the same effectiveness. The reduction in the use of antibiotics can and will have an economic impact on poultry production.
Are animal producers becoming more concerned on the use of pronutrients and other natural additives as tools capable of improving animal nutrition, or is there still much work to be done in raising awareness?
Many producers are aware of their potential but it is still necessary to keep working on raising awareness, especially within medium and small farms.
Do you think that, in the near future, most consumers in Central America will be able to consume free antibiotic chickens or will it be a long transition?
This is a process that can take years because, as I mentioned before, banning antibiotic prophylaxis will have an economic impact at a productive level, which at the same time will have an impact on the final cost of the product. Therefore, such change will be to a great extent determined by the purchasing power of the consumer.