International Fibre Summit spotlights ‘rising star’

Fiber took center stage in Barcelona last week, as global researchers and industry experts joined the first International Fibre Summit, a three-day event exploring the changing role of dietary fiber in monogastric nutrition.

Organized by AB Vista, the event brought together specialists from 16 universities across six continents to share cutting-edge insights into the ways in which fiber can be exploited for better animal performance.

AB Vista’s Research Director Dr. Mike Bedford explained that an advanced understanding of fiber is opening up new horizons for feed formulators.

“For a long time, it was thought that fiber caused a negative impact – and so diets were formulated without it. However, it has become increasingly clear that fiber plays a vital role in the development of the microbiota, since it is a key substrate for bacterial growth.

“As the total dietary fiber content of monogastric diets tends to be higher than people expect when measuring only crude fiber, there is a huge opportunity for nutritionists to harness the ‘treasure trove’ of potential laying within. As we further unravel the complexities of fiber, so we improve the provision of nutrients to the gut microbiota – for better performance. This is of course especially significant in the age of antibiotic-free diets,” said Bedford.

Speakers at the event shared a broad range of research and advice, with topics including the modulation of feed intake in pigs and chickens; the influence of fiber on gut physiology and feed intake regulation; new strategies influencing gut functionality and animal performance, and challenges in the analysis of oligosaccharides and other fiber components.

There was also a key focus on enzymes, with speakers exploring the use of enzymes as alternatives to antibiotics, the ‘single vs multi’ question, the modification of fiber by enzymes, and future trends in application.

Discussing the adaptability of the microbiome towards fiber digestion, Professor Christophe Courtin (University of Leuven) shared the results of a pioneering broiler trial.

He said, “The trial showed that the microbiota of the broiler develops with age. We discovered that if you add arabinoxylan oligosaccharides to the broiler diets at a very young age, but also at very low levels, these will actually kick-start the potential of the microbiota to deal with arabinoxylans.”

Explaining that the currently emerging perspectives on fiber represent a new frontier in animal nutrition, Dr. Bedford concluded, “It seems we may be on the verge of entering an exciting new era: one where nutritionists simultaneously consider nutrition for the microbiota – or the ‘second brain’ – in addition to nutrition for the animal. This is where the better understanding of dietary fiber in the diet and the impact of enzymes and oligosaccharide provision in the hindgut shows an exciting future for animal nutrition.”