Can a Fungus, Aspergillus oryzae, Improve the Performance and Carcass Characteristics of Finished Lambs?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

In a continually changing society, today’s consumer is much different in the way they make purchasing decisions when compared to their parents, especially when it comes to the meat case. Go ahead, list some examples of the marketing strategies you have seen at your local and chain retail grocery stores. Labels such as organic, pasture raised, and no hormones added are just a few. As an example, I’m sure that many of you are familiar with Certified Angus Beef, but have you heard of their new line – Certified Angus Beef Brand Natural? Natural. A simple word that appeals and resonates with some many people. These beef products follow the same 10 specs that all beef must achieve in order to be marketed as Certified Angus Beef in addition to no antibiotics or added hormones. I understand the concept behind the label, consumers are looking for a wholesome, natural product that is raised in a manner in which we have reduced the use of antibiotics, thus decreasing the potential for the development of antibiotic resistance.

In the same breath, according to a 2017 USDA survey, approximately 12% of American households remain food insecure. This figure increases as we consider this issue on a global basis, but why are these statistics important in this discussion? As a means to increase production efficiencies, feed manufacturers and livestock producers have added feed-grade antibiotics to diets to control for metabolic issues to improve animal performance. In turn, this improves the overall efficiency of an operation and allows for high quality protein products to be available at a lower cost, thus attempting to decrease the issue of food insecurity. However, with the implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) program, producers can no longer incorporate these feed-grade antibiotics without veterinary approval. Therefore, these products may no longer be used as a subtherapeutic treatment. In order to avoid the use of antibiotics, are there other products that could increase animal performance? Could specific fungi (mold), which are natural products, work in the same capacity as the previously fed feed-grade antibiotics?

In order to address this question, we will consult with Zerby and others (2011) as they investigated the use of Aspergillus oryzae, a fermentation extract of mold (Amaferm), as a means to decrease metabolic issues (acidosis) and improve feed efficiency (via an increase in favorable bacterial populations) in lamb feedlot diets. A total of 48 Dorset x Hampshire lambs were fed a pelleted diet which consisted of ground corn, alfalfa, soybean hulls, and soybean meal. As for the treatment, lambs were fed an additional pellet which contained either Amaferm (AMF) or ground corn (CON) as the control. Over the course of the ~70 day feeding trial, AMF was supplemented at 1 gram/head/day. Lambs were fed in pens of four and were removed when pens reached a targeted body weight of 110 lbs. – 120 lbs. for ewes and 120 lbs. – 130 lbs.. Lamb performance measures were collected every 14 days in addition to carcass data once lambs were removed from test.

From a performance standpoint, lamb initial and final body weights did not differ as targeted body weights were used to determine lamb allotment and harvest date. Lambs supplemented with AMF demonstrated a 4.9% greater gain to feed ratio (G:F) when compared to lambs receiving the CON diet. Although not significantly different, lambs supplemented with AMF numerically showed an 8.8% increase in average daily gain (ADG) compared to CON fed lambs (0.75 lbs. vs. 0.81 lbs.). Dry matter intake (DMI) and days on fed did not differ between AMF and CON fed lambs. From a carcass standpoint, supplementation of AMF had no effect on any carcass characteristic measurements.

In conclusion, we can note that the inclusion of AMF at 1 gram/head/day improved lamb G:F without affecting the amount of feed required in a finishing diet. However, no other differences were noted on lamb performance or carcass characteristics. At this rate, some many question if the product is worth the investment? Maybe it depends on what you’re feeding and how many lambs you intend on finishing? However, I challenge you to think about this mold beyond the variables discussed above. In what other ways can Amaferm improve the efficiency of your operation? According to Beharka and Nagaraja (1998), Nisbet and Martin (1990), and Waldrip and Martin (1990), Amaferm has shown to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria that can effectively combat issues associated with acidosis. Therefore, could this product be most beneficial in transition diets or periods of stress? Sounds like another research project to me.

Zerby, H. N., J. L. Bard, S. C. Loerch, P. S. Kuber, A. E. Randunz, and F. L. Fluharty. 2011. Effects of diet and Aspergillus oryzae extract or Saccharomyces cervisiae on growth and carcass characteristics of lambs and steers fed to meet requirements of natural markets. J. Anim. Sci. 89: 2257-2264.

Beharka, A.A., Nagaraja, T.G. 1998. Effect of Aspergillus oryzae extract alone or in combination with antimicrobial compounds on ruminal bacteria. J. Dairy Sci. 81: 1591-1598.

Nisbet D.J., Martin, S.A. 1990. Effect of dicarboxylic acids and Aspergillus oryzae fermentation extract on lactate uptake by the ruminal bacterium Selenamonas ruminantium. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 56: 3515-3518.

Waldrip, H.M., Martin, S.A. 1990. Effect of an Aspergillus oryzae fermentation extract and other factors on lactate utilization by the ruminal bacterium Megaspharea elsdenii. J. Amin. Sci. 71: 2770-2776.