03 July 2018- Sodium bicarbonate has been used as a ruminal buffer for many, many years. However, though long established in this role, that doesn’t mean it is the most effective ruminal buffer known. Nor, as we have seen recently, is it immune to supply shocks or demand pressure from its applications in markets outside of animal nutrition.

Aurélien Trac
Director of Agricultural Applications
TIMAB Magnesium

TIMAB Magnesium, part of Groupe Roullier, has developed a solution that it claims is able to neutralize three times more acid per gram of product compared to sodium bicarbonate. According to Aurélien Trac, director of agricultural applications at TIMAB Magnesium, “In rumen juice, pHix-up’s® effect is 40% more potent than sodium bicarbonate with half the dosage (0.5% vs. 1% of the diet dry matter).” An additional advantage is the product’s speed, he asserts. “In vitro, pHix-up® induces a quicker raise of rumen juice pH (from 5.5 to 6 in less than 2 hours) and maintains it at optimal value for more than 6 hours. In vivo results demonstrated that pHix-up® reduces significantly the proportion of time spent by dairy cow in sub-clinical acidosis compared to sodium bicarbonate with a dose that was only 40-50% as large as the sodium bicarbonate dose.

While this may sound extremely theoretical, the results are quite visible in the real world, Mr. Trac tells Feedinfo. “In studies conducted in France, Spain and Italy, cows receiving pHix-up® produced on average +2kg of milk, +100g of fat and +80g of protein per day compared to cows receiving sodium bicarbonate.” Containing 48.5% magnesium, the product accounts for 30 mEq/kg DM at 0.5% DM in DCAD calculations for ruminants.

Of course, Mr. Trac explains, not all magnesium solutions are equal. “The use of magnesium to neutralize excess acid in the rumen has already been studied in the late 80’s. The conclusion was that the effect on ruminal pH, milk production and fat content of milk highly varies from one source of magnesium to another, the type and origin of ore, calcination process and particle size.” This, he attests, has been borne out by the most recent reviews of MgO supplements used in the field: “If rumen alkalinizing activity is valued in lactating cow diets, this can represent a >10,000-fold difference in the number of hydrogen ions neutralized between two products. We have used all our expertise on magnesium oxide to develop pHix-up.”

In essence, pHix-up® has concentrated the best-performing magnesium sources to rapidly neutralize pH acidity in the rumen after feeding, and to maintain an optimal pH between two feedings. “We’ve tested more than 30 different magnesium compounds in-vitro prior to finalize formulation. The key was to select those performing best in the specific ruminal environment, excluding those damaging ruminal flora, and find the perfect combination to obtain the targeted kinetic in rumen. pHix-up alone provides both a rapid action (quicker than sodium bicarbonate) and a long-lasting effect on rumen pH thanks to the progressive and complementary actions of its different magnesium components.”

The product is the fruit of TIMAB’s single-minded focus on magnesium solutions, combined with the expertise of strategic partners. pHix-up’s® development began in 2015 in collaboration with the Global Innovation Centre of Group Roullier, the National Institute of Agronomic Research of Rennes (INRA) and Inovalys (a public French lab), Mr. Trac tells Feedinfo. The in-vivo studies have also been part of a collaboration with French vets, as well as with the Blanca experimental station under the supervision of Dr. Alex Bach. “We have sponsored 4 in-vivo studies in the last two years and more than 15 in-vitro trials using artificial rumen.” In-house, it boasts an R&D team of eight researchers fully dedicated to magnesium in agricultural applications, and claims to be first in the world when it comes to private research dedicated to magnesium’s applications in animal feed. “To maintain our lead, we focus on research partnerships around the world, but also in co-developing specific products with customers. Exchanges with the field are key for us to develop new products that add value to our commercial partners as well as solving technical issues,” he says.

Although the company has been involved in animal nutrition for 40 years, this is their first step into branded nutritional products. However, it is unlikely to be the last. As Mr. Trac asserts, “we are now engaged in a strong commitment to create a range of specialty products for the agricultural market. pHix-up® is the first to be launched and it represents new commercial opportunities for us. We are looking for partners to develop this innovative product (and the others to come) on the markets.”

These new products may be expected to come quickly as TIMAB Magnesium seeks to help the industry understand the value of this underappreciated element. “Magnesium is a major element, like Calcium and Phosphorous, but often it is the ‘poor child’ of formulation. It’s our role to share our technical expertise with feed nutritionists,” Mr. Trac acknowledges. The company intends to focus on new applications of magnesium both in animal and vegetal nutrition, as well to determine the best magnesium source for each specific need. “Our ambition is to launch a new product per year.”