Three New Year’s resolutions to reduce feed cost

In times of crisis, it is often a question of reducing the overall feed bill in order to remain in business. We consider three such measures.

If this new year is anything like the previous one, and there is no indication it will be any better, most pig and poultry producers will continue to face the challenge of paying an increasingly expensive feed bill. In times of crisis, such as these, we must consider how to reduce the out-of-pocket money paid for feed, in addition to improving animal performance and (or) feed efficiency. For some operations, the lack of liquidity to pay the feed bill might be the breaking point and the end of a family business! Thus, with such considerations in mind, the following three “resolutions” are offered:

1. Reduce feed wastage.  The first step should be to determine how much feed is wasted from the feeders. Anything above 5 percent is considered unacceptable, but there are still many farms where up to 20-30 percent of the feed ends up in the manure pits. To determine wastage, an expert should be invited to walk through the facilities, or digital photographs of the feeders and the surrounding area can be submitted instead. The second step usually involves changes in the feeder flow-gate settings, or repairs, or even installation of such flow-gates. It is less frequent to recommend complete change of feeders, but when feed is so expensive, such option should not be excluded when wastage is excessive.

2. Reduce nutrient margins.  Most generic diets have been formulated to fit a wide variety of farm conditions. As such, they contain usually generous safety margins for most nutrients, most likely amino acids. A qualified nutritionist can reevaluate these diets and suggest a challenge model where small decreases in nutrient density will be tested against animal performance responses until no further decreases are profitable. Nevertheless, in some cases, even a slight decrease in animal performance might be justified if the reduction in the overall feed bill is substantial. In most cases, however, a slight decrease in the level of the first limiting amino acid (lysine for pigs and methionine for poultry) is a good starting point.

3. Reduce the use of additives.  Now is a good time to discuss with your nutritionist the need for each additive used in all diets. It is best to start with those additives used for preventing measures, before moving to products that enhance productivity, and finally touching those that resolve farm-specific issues. Each additive remaining in the feed should have a strong and proven record of performance at the farm used and its return-on-investment should be more than substantial. It is quite often the case that a less expensive additive might be recommended, even though it might not be as effective, but such measures might help a farm remain in business.

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