War in Ukraine causes phosphate shortage in animal feeds

We can ration phosphorus supplies in animal feeds following scientifically proven principles that allow us to reduce phosphorus waste.

Above View On Tractor As Throws, Fertilizing Arable Farmland Wit
Roman_photography_079 | BigStock.com

Limited supply means more going to fertilizers, less to animal nutrition

Coronavirus and logistics problems, plus the war in Ukraine that has caused a significant drop in fertilizer production โ€“ and the need for increased grain production outside Ukraine, has shifted phosphorus from animal feed ingredients into fertilizers. If you expect this situation to change soon, then donโ€™t hold your breath โ€“ thatโ€™s what I was told by a colleague of mine, who is well versed in the phosphate business.

Given the outlook of global affairs, this situation is probably going to take more than a couple of crop years (as some optimistic experts suggest) to sort itself out. And, miracles do not happen that often in the animal nutrition world. Phosphate prices doubled several years ago when mines in northern Africa started to show signs of depletion. Now, prices have tripled.

In the first quarter of 2022, the price per metric ton of monocalcium phosphate hovered around EUR500 (US$535). Just a few months later, after the war in Ukraine started, prices have skyrocketed above EUR1500, and something tells me this is not the ceiling, but just the start of a continuous hike in prices. Phosphorus is a limited nutrient in nature and much needed by all crops. So, fertilizers gain priority because, without grains, there is going to be no feed formulated to which phosphates can be added. Not to mention that, in some countries, the wheat self-sufficiency status for human consumption is being re-examined.

If phosphorus becomes so expensive and meat, egg and milk prices do not follow the same trend, then there is little that can be done but accept the inevitable, some might say. Here, I disagree. We can ration and rationalize phosphorus supplies in animal feeds covering the most demanding situations and following scientifically proven principles that allow us to reduce phosphorus waste. It so happened, this was part of my MSc thesis at Kansas State University, and I will be including this into my next blog where we will examine all possible ways to address expensive phosphorus.

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