De Heus is making a difference on South African farms by providing nutritional animal feed for livestock in the form of compound feed, premixes, concentrates, and feed specialties. Situated in the picturesque Midlands, the SA head office laboratory was recently revamped and expanded. In this operation, a series of Erlab air filtration systems were installed to provide clean air for the lab, and the Buchi Digester and MuliKjel distillation unit now provides in-house capabilities to determine protein and nitrogen in the feed products. These units were installed and supplied by Labotec.

ABOVE PHOTO CAPTION : Luane vd Merwe from Labotec takes the De Heus lab staff through the steps to perform in-house NPN analysis in their protein lab using Buchi’s Digest Automat K-438 and Scrubber followed by distillation and titration with the Buchi MultiKjel K-375 and KjeldSampler K376  

Headquartered in Ede, Netherlands, De Heus is a family business with a mission to advance customers – the producers of meat, fish, milk, and eggs – by continuously improving quality, transparency, and cooperation throughout the food production chain. For the local farmers, this means impacting their livestock through hands-on advice to support farm management and keeping animals healthy with optimal food production.

In-house Protein analysis with Buchi

Protein analysis is one of the key analyses for the feed industry. The NPN analysis was previously outsourced, and as it’s a simple test to perform according to their previous experience, the laboratory decided to do this in-house at the HQ branch in the Midlands.  They are using Buchi’s Digest Automat K-438 and Scrubber followed by distillation and titration with the Buchi MultiKjel K-375 and KjeldSampler K376.

The way it works is samples require digestion with sulphuric acid to convert nitrogen into ammonium sulfate. After conversion, the sample is distilled into a boric acid received by steam distillation followed by titration. The nitrogen content is multiplied by a sample-specific protein factor to finally obtain the protein content. The total digestion time is around 120 minutes.

“The Buchi brand is well-known in the market, robust and reliable,” says Sharlene Moodley, SA Lab Manager for De Heus “and since we had a previous good experience with Buchi’s NIR and distillation units, we decided to reinvest in the brand”. “Once the NPN is set up, then we will move to check soya quality, PDI (Protein Dispersibility Index), which previously was performed via NIR. In addition, we needed to consider being on a farm, where if we needed technical backup and training it could be supplied.  This was possible through Labotec which has a local KZN branch”.

Clean Lab Air with Erlab

The expanded Midlands laboratory needed healthy clean air coming in and installed a series of Erlab Halo filtration ductless systems in the ceiling. Halo is continuously pulling the dirty air in the lab through the filter, absorbing the molecules that cause noxious odours, and returning clean air back into the rooms through low-disruptive side vents. This prevents any damage to equipment from lack of clean airflow and most importantly protects the staff and workflow.  The clean air also supports the new open design concept, a light, airy and open plan feel with glass windows and glass doors just installed with the renovation.

Feed Landscape and Local Farm Growth  

“The amount of farms in SA hasn’t increased, in fact, farmers are decreasing, but the size of farms has increased.  Today’s farmers are farming on a larger scale, with larger volumes coming into feed mills, therefore demand for feed is more,” says Sharlene Moodley. “Reasons for the revamp at De Heus was a process. Since buying the mill in 2007, it was revamped, and the lab was established to service the capacity of the plant in 2009. Since then, De Heus feed mills, tonnages, and testing requirements grew. Product profiles grew and changed over time. The number of analyses grew, and therefore testing requirements also grew over years. An extensive increase in ruminants, cattle, pigs, poultry, and goats increased nutritional feed demand to produce dairy, beef, goats for mohair, etc”.

While the main De Heus local laboratory is situated in the Midlands, Quality Control processes to check moisture, NIR, ash content, chloride, etc is performed at all their feed mill sites from Kleinberg, Klerksdorp, Modimolle, as well as the rest of Africa. A scan check of raw materials is also performed to check all trucks going out before offloading. The more in-depth nutritional analysis is sent to HQ in The Netherlands’ Formulation department via LIMS.  Here formulations are constantly updated using statistical analysis.

Nutrition must provide a balance between the cost to farmers and, the productivity of animals on farms. This feedback on nutritional information in the Netherlands with international input, and the science behind this, finally translates into products.

SA already has a reputation as a superior meat producer in the world alongside Brazil. With extensive farms, as opposed to the intensive farming methods used in Europe, and sunshine year-round on our backs, the outlook is positive.

The expansion and revamping of the De Heus Lab has put De Heus at the foreground of quality control for raw materials and final product supplied to their clients.