Dr Isabela Carvalho
Trouw Nutrition R&D
Isabela Carvalho studied Animal Sciences at Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil, and obtained her MSc degree in Animal Nutrition in 2009. She continued her studies as a PhD scholar at the Sao Paulo State University (UNESP) School of Agricultural and Veterinarian Sciences, which included an external training period with CSIRO's Microbiology Group in Australia.
Carvalho's work focused on extensive beef cattle production, nitrogen metabolism, nutrient utilisation, and ruminal metabolism. In 2013, Carvalho joined Nutreco's Ruminant Research Centre as a researcher, with a main focus on the functional nutrition of beef cattle. She has contributed to a number of scientific and technical publications and has participated at international conferences.
Beef cattle nutrition: Digestion and feed utilization
Dr Isabela Carvalho, of Trouw Nutrition R&D, spoke during the afternoon session on the second day of the international symposium that marked the official opening of Trouw Nutrition's new Calf & Beef Research Facility in April, 2016.
Her presentation which focused on beef cattle nutrition, digestion and feed utilization, included a discussion of the importance of precision in feed evaluation as well as a thorough explanation of fibre degradation and effective non-protein nitrogen usage.
She also presented an examination of carcass yield and meat quality and included a brief overview of current research that seeks to find ways to improve both of these very important markers of retail value.
Making feed evaluation more precise
Dr Carvalho explained that currently there is a serious issue with beef being fed using values that were generated by research with dairy cattle, even though their diets are quite different. Indeed, via research undertaken at the Trouw Nutrition Ruminant Research Centre by her colleagues Jeroen Doorenbos and Dr Harmen van Laar, Dr Carvalho showed that the degradation and passage rates of fermentable carbs and fermentable protein of raw materials are variably different for beef and that, more importantly, these differences are neither consistent nor predictable. Therefore, while more studies need to be done with starch, fibre and crude protein from grains, she stressed that there needs to be a specific feed evaluation metric in place for beef.
Carcass yield and meat quality
Dr Carvalho explained that during the beef pre-slaughter period, many additional challenges exist that also need to be addressed. These include feed and water deprivation which lead to dehydration and loss of protein, as well as glycogen depletion, which affects the quality of the meat. She shared that in doing research for a pre-slaughter treatment, she and her colleagues have found that there are very specific ratios of minerals and electrolytes that work to maintain hydration and protein mass. In fact, carcass weight was 2% higher with supplementation than with water alone. While upping production is important, Dr Carvalho pointed out that it's also essential to reduce waste. In discussing shelf life, she noted that even if meat is still good, if the visual aspects of the product aren't appealing to consumers, they will reject the product.
To that end, she shared the ongoing research of her Trouw Nutrition colleague, Leonel Leal. Mr Leal's is examining the use of Vitamin E to extend shelf life by increasing colour stability and decreasing lipid oxidation. The objective is to quantify and predict the amount of Vitamin E supplementation needed to optimize both shelf life and consumer satisfaction. Indeed, his research has produced equations for the correct amount of Vitamin E supplementation for particular outcomes. But, since the response is quite complex based on dose, time of feeding, exposure and other factors, there is no "one size fits all" approach.
Ultimately, while the diversity of global beef production systems makes it quite challenging to improve beef production overall, Dr Carvalho remains optimistic. She believes that spurred by current areas of research, and the optimization of beef resources at each stage of the process, we will indeed be able to get the same amount of meat (or more) as we currently do from fewer animals and with less feed. In fact, she believes that with the right technology, beef will play a pivotal role in the overall efficiency of globally sustainable food production.
In fact, she believes that beef can be quite efficient and can outperform other species, thus upping the level of sustainability in the sector.