Europe feed makers, farmers struggling with high grain costs

Time to pass costs on to consumers, say farmers

European animal feed makers are saying they have limited options when it comes to making substitutes to cope with rising global grain costs, and farmers dealing with increased feed costs say they may be forced to reduce their herds as meat prices fail to keep pace, according to reports.

Global corn and wheat prices rose 50 percent and soybeans roughly 20 percent in the six weeks to the end of July as the U.S. entered a drought that continues to present challenges. “The animals need energy, and I don’t think that the carbohydrates they get from grains could be replaced with anything else,” said Sam Millet, a researcher at the Belgium Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research. “I don’t think we can grow plants with the same content of digestible energy as grains.”

Grains usually account for more than 50 percent of animal feed formulas for poultry, pigs and cattle, and protein from oilseeds such as rapeseed and soybeans makes up another 25 percent. The rest consists of minerals and additives. Farmers are looking for ways to alter their formulas, but say they have little to work with. “The use of (byproducts) is limited and linked to availability,” said John Brennan, director of research and development for animal nutrition at Nutreco. “In North America where we have growth of the ethanol industry, we have increased availability of distilled grains and we use it as feedstock.” According to Brennan, the biggest savings have come from additives — mixes of vitamins, minerals, emulsifiers and some chemicals. “That’s where the revolution is taking place,” he said. Some blends have led to 10 percent cost savings for ruminants’ feed, but savings for poultry and pig feed were much lower, said Brennan.

Farmers have said it’s time to pass on the costs to consumers, or they risk having to shut down. “The price of feed has risen by more than the price of pork,” said Christiane Lambert, vice president of France’s largest farm union FNSEA. “The risk is that some of the producers will go out of business.”

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