How to design a low-cost animal feed

Animal Nutrition Views

Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D., gives his views on poultry, pig and dairy nutrition based on his experience as a nutrition consultant with clients around the world.

How to design a low-cost animal feed

Least-cost formulation software is not enough to lower feed cost, per se.

Most feed professionals would associate a low-cost feed with least-cost formulation, but this is more of a brainteaser than the absolute reality. Any computer software programmed to provide a least-cost solution requires a set of parameters dictated by the feed professional. For example, the level of phosphorus is set by the nutritionist and not by the computer. Say a nutritionist decides a specific feed should contain 0.5 percent phosphorus. That is a human decision based on education and experience. It is then the role of the feed formulation software to arrange the inclusion of each ingredient in proportions so the final formula will contain 0.5 percent phosphorus with the least expenditure of money. The same, of course, holds true for all other nutrients.

Now, if another nutritionist with more (or less) education or experience decides this same feed should contain 0.4 percent phosphorus, then the feed formulation program will design a new feed with less phosphorus, and again with the less expenditure of money on ingredients that procure phosphorus (and all other nutrients). Now, this second feed will be less expensive than the one above, although both will be formulated on least cost.

In brief, it is not the computer and feed formulation program that designs a low-cost feed, but rather the nutritionist in charge of the process. The feed formulation is just a tool. It is unrealistic to expect computer software to make a decision that requires the input of a human. Even in cases where such decisions are taken by software, it has been a human behind the input variables. So, before you invest in a top-notch feed formulation software, make sure the feed professional is up to par.