24 Dec 2020

The importance of supplemental amino acids & NIRS in poultry nutrition

Content available in: Español (Spanish)

The use of practical analytical tools that allow the determination of nutrient content in raw materials is getting increasingly popular. Such technologies allow today’s nutritionists to develop precise formulations with reduction of excess nutrients, thus optimizing the cost of the diet and minimizing nutrient waste into the environment.

An example of these great advances is undoubtedly the evolution in amino acid nutrition together with the increasing availability of supplemental amino acids and rapid estimation analytical tools such as near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), which uses the near infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

In the early days of animal nutrition, crude feed protein was overrated as an essential component to achieve optimal growth and animal breeding. There was a belief that animals had a specific requirement for crude protein and certain raw materials. However, with the development of food analytical methods at the beginning of the 19th century, it was identified that amino acids, as nutrients, are the true necessary building blocks for building body proteins required by the animal.

For example, amino acids are the main constituents of structural and protective tissues such as:

  • SKIN

Today, it is widely accepted that birds have a requirement for amino acids as a nutrient per se and not for total crude protein or raw materials.

Because body proteins are in a dynamic state of continuous synthesis and degradation, it is imperative to ensure adequate intake of amino acids.

The quality of dietary “protein” is determined by its potential to meet the physiological amino acid requirements for maintenance and production (growth, reproduction, egg production) and varies depending on:

  • AGE
  • SEX

The incorporation of supplemental amino acids in animal nutrition is essential to meet precise amino acid needs, reducing the use of intact sources of protein in the diet such as soybean meal and fish meal, among others.


It is a concept that establishes that birds amino acid needs in a certain balance to achieve optimum performance, meet their maintenance and production demands, and reduce their use as an energy source and nitrogen excretion.

Any absorbed amino acid that is in excess in relation to the first limiting amino acid will be oxidized and nitrogen must be eliminated from the body, reducing the efficiency of nitrogen utilization and increasing energy expenditure for its elimination. 


A practical application of this concept is the formulation of diets with lower levels of crude protein that allow achieving the same level of performance as diets high in crude protein with excess of some amino acids. Protein synthesis capacity is determined by the most limiting amino acid in the diet as illustrated by the Liebig Barrel in Figure 1.

In typical poultry diets, the relatively high requirement of sulfur amino acids in relation to the deficient supply of these amino acids by raw materials (combinations of corn / wheat / sorghum with soybean meal / animal by-product meals) makes methionine generally the first limiting amino acid. To increase the efficiency of the other essential amino acids, and therefore, the level of animal performance (water level), it is necessary to meet the requirements for the first limiting amino acid.





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