Fats and oils – or lipids – are an essential energy-source in nearly every animal’s diet. However, lipid sources used in feed formulations today – vegetable oils, rendered animal fats, recycled restaurant grease and more – are not all created equal. Inconsistency in the properties of lipids, their quality and nutritional value are common concerns for producers.
Common lipid sources used in feed formulations today include rendered animal fats, vegetable oils, blended fats and by-product oils. These lipids are among the most energy-dense nutrients in a balanced feed ration. Importantly, however, these lipids vary significantly not only in their nutritional value but also in their susceptibility to oxidation – a major source of reduced fat and oil quality. If you’re feeding a ration that includes an oxidized fat source, your animals likely aren’t performing at full potential, and it’s probably having a negative impact on your profits.
The hot summer weather is beginning to wind down now – but it’s always a good time to ask, “how is my fat looking?” Monitoring the quality of your incoming fat sources is the primary step in effective fat management. The impacts of oxidation are irreversible, so it is crucial to begin with high-quality fat and then maintain that quality. Oxidized fat that has been negatively impacted by heat, light and oxygen can have a damaging impact on your animals. This impact can be seen across performance, health and nutrition through decreased growth, immunity challenges, loss of energy content in the fat itself and an array of other issues.
What causes fats to oxidize? Time of storage, application of heat and the mixing of different lipid sources all have an impact on fat quality, and specifically on influencing oxidation. Oxidation is an irreversible, naturally-occurring process where fatty acids are attacked by free radicals resulting in production of harmful byproducts, including peroxides and aldehydes. This process reduces the energy value of the fat and can have deleterious effects on growth performance. Once oxidation starts, the damage cannot be undone, so preventing oxidation should be a top priority for producers.
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