With over 125 years’ worth of combined experience, the Premier Nutrition team looks ahead to key changes and industry developments that 2020 may bring, for the ruminant, pig, poultry, pet and equine sectors.

Ruminant – Anna Dinsdale, ruminant nutritionist

Low quality forage stocks

I’m expecting another interesting year forage-wise. The winter of 2018/19 saw high demand for concentrates as the previous hot and dry summer led to depleted forage stocks, and its likely demand could increase again in 2020.

Although, this won’t be due to the lack of forage availability, but it will be to compensate for the poor forage quality that we’ve seen as a result of the wetter summer.

This means we could see an influx of demand for carefully tailored feed premixes to meet the needs of cattle requiring a greater volume of concentrate feed.

Accurate concentrate formulation will be key as many cows are currently presenting lower than ideal Body Condition Scores (BCS), again from grazing lower quality grass during the summer.

Carbon foot printing

One thing we expect to be high on the agenda for 2020 is the continued drive to reduce carbon emissions. So feed manufacturers are being encouraged to start making improvements now, to help achieve the NFU’s target of net zero greenhouse gas
emissions from agriculture by 2040.

From a nutrition point of view, there are ways in which we can alter the amount of methane produced by ruminants, such as feeding diets higher in starch and lower in fibre.

There are also feed additives available. For example, essential oil based products can aid in the reduction of methane production from ruminal bacteria.

Premier is putting focus on sustainably sourced ingredient options, including waste products from human food production, such as biscuit meal and dried distillers’ grains (DDGS).

In addition to this, the protected amino acid (AA) market is growing as more competitively priced products become available. This provides increased opportunity to replace proteins such as soya, with locally sourced alternatives, supplemented with the AAs – lysine and methionine.

Poultry – Steve Pritchard, poultry nutritionist

Increasing use of crystalline amino acids

2019 saw two new crystalline AAs become available for use in poultry diets and we’re expecting to see the roll out of their use in 2020, to help achieve a 1% reduction in crude protein.

As with ruminants, the drive to reduce soya use is important for the poultry sector. The new AAs will not only help to reduce reliance on soya by adding more options to the nutritionist’s toolbox, but they should also improve litter conditions, gut health and overall bird performance.

However, as the ingredients are new to the market, we must ensure they can be used cost-effectively. So, our focus at Premier will be to fine tune the delicate balance between ration cost and the performance benefits a diet can provide.

Extending the laying cycle

As breeding companies continue to work towards extending the laying cycle, with the overall objective of producing a bird capable of laying 500 eggs by 100 weeks of age, the challenges of realising this potential nutritionally are coming into focus.


We already know that establishing a strong and healthy pullet in the rearing stages will set the bird in good stead for a longer laying cycle. So, we’re working to fine tune this knowledge in order to support our customers and help the industry move forwards.

Pullets need good frame development and to have the ability to respond to a plethora of vaccines in order to establish long lasting immunity. The bird also needs supporting later in lay with a supply of key minerals, vitamins and trace elements to ensure we give it every chance to lay down a strong eggshell.

Pigs – Mick Hazzledine, pig nutritionist

Reviewing mineral and vitamin requirements

At a time when pig genetics and productivity are changing at a rapid pace, it can be difficult for research data and nutritional management practices to keep up.

Often, suggested vitamin requirements date back to papers published many years ago or may not be applicable for UK systems. We need to ensure that these highly productive animals have sufficient skeletal strength without contributing to environmental concerns through excess excretion.

Therefore, Premier is investing in major reviews of vitamin and mineral nutrition. The first full feeding trials commence in late 2019 with an overall aim of improving welfare and performance in 2020 and beyond.

Coping with antibiotic reduction

Nutrition can play a key part in helping the industry meet RUMA’s 2020 antibiotic reduction targets.

For example, as new crystalline AAs become available, overall crude protein levels in feeds can be reduced while cutting nitrogen excretion and improving gut health, potentially reducing need for medication.

The AA profile of feeds today is geared towards lean growth and milk production and is largely derived from research on healthy pigs.

However, we’re aware that this profile isn’t optimum for immune response and so changes to this profile may help the pig fight disease. This is one of many reasons why commercial feed specifications should be tested under fully commercial conditions.

Pet – Andrew Miller, pet nutritionist

Premiumisation and sustainability

The trend for premiumisation of pet foods closely tracks many human food trends and continues to gather pace from a well-established base. Whether it’s a continued move to natural ingredients, grain-free recipes, high meat inclusions, vegetarian or vegan foods, novel and exotic proteins, raw or functional foods with specific health benefits, these ever-changing trends will continue to present an ongoing challenge to pet nutritionists in 2020.

In addition, sustainability of pet foods is a key industry challenge and will drive the development of novel manufacturing processes and the exploitation of new raw material streams by manufacturers in 2020.

We work hard to stay ahead of the curve and our role is to understand and predict these trends so that we can adapt our premix formulations to ensure foods continue to be safe for pets and meet their nutritional requirements.

Market growth

According to the PFMA, the UK pet food market is worth £2.9 billion per year and is growing at an average rate of 1% per year.  One area that’s set for significant growth in 2020 and beyond is the snacks and treats market, after it has already expanded by an estimated 6% in the past year. Like pet food, snacks and treats are following human snack trends, with new varieties developing in three key areas; Long lasting chews, tasty treats and functional healthy snacks.

Equine – Ruth Bishop, equine nutritionist

Shift in feed production

The mild winter and warm wet conditions in 2019 ensured grass growth rates remained
high from spring to autumn, with no real evidence of summer reduction. At the same
time, we’ve seen a general increase in equine obesity and conditions such as

The effect of this has resulted in a 20-year low in equine feed production according to Defra – a combination of less feed, and a move perhaps to more concentrated feed balancers over more traditional ‘main meals’. The weather conditions throughout winter and spring of 2019/20 will set the pattern for demand and availability of both feed and forage. 

Feed safety and doping control changes

Equine focused feed safety and doping controls will undergo a refresh in 2020 – a combination of the new UFAS Code, a new version of the BETA NOPS (Naturally Occurring Prohibited Substances) Code, together with the latest version of the Equine Prohibited Substances List coming into force from the FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale), will all keep equine feed producers on their toes.

The changing agricultural environment together with these new standards will require revisions to ingredient and supplier risk assessments as well as quality control procedures, not only for feed producers but for those that make supplements too.