Compared to the fattening up power of soybeans and corn, high-fiber animal feeds are often considered to be inefficient for optimal growth and production. But livestock producers may want to reconsider that stance, says Rajesh Jha of the Dept. of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences. “Our lab has studied many alternative feed components for developing cost-effective and sustainable animal production systems and, in the process, found many functional benefits of dietary fiber not previously appreciated,” he notes. Although fibrous feedstuffs typically have fewer calories and relatively lower nutritional values, the higher level of dietary fiber works to improve the animal’s gut health by modulating beneficial microorganisms in the large intestine, the same way as in humans. This, in turn, benefits the immune function, as well as overall health and performance.
“Alternative feedstuffs are a reasonably cheaper animal feed, and can be sourced locally,” Rajesh adds. “Interestingly, dietary fibers and their components have a prebiotic function and are considered alternatives to antibiotics in animal feeding programs. This is of particular importance when the animal industry is under pressure to produce food animals without antibiotics in their diets.”
The review paper, Dietary fiber in poultry nutrition and their effects on nutrient utilization, performance, gut health, and on the environment, appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology. Related review and research papers are also available on Rajesh’s lab website.