Alternative Feed Ingredients: An Option to Combat High Feed Prices?

Newsletter No. 69 - Item 2

One way some attempt to reduce costs is to seek alternative feed ingredients.  This has been a very common practice with Ostrich production, even when the main feed ingredients were at reasonable prices.

More recently mainstream livestock producers have been tempted to go down the route of seeking alternative, lower cost feed ingredients.   An article recently published on the Poultry Site discusses this very topic.  The article concludes:

Quote:  Alternative ingredients should always receive full consideration for use in feed formulas, not only in times of elevated prices. However, new sources of any ingredient should be submitted for laboratory evaluation prior to purchase and use in formulation, and possible limitations considered.

It is questionable whether significant savings will be realized from the use of alternative ingredients. Although special relationships can sometimes be developed between supplier and feed manufacturer, prices of ingredients of similar nutrient content almost always rise and fall in tandem.

The unfortunate reality of alternative ingredients is quite simple: there are no inexpensive train-loads of either a new grain in Manitoba or an undiscovered oilseed in Mississippi. End Quote

During the discussion the article states:

Quote: Exactly what constitutes an alternative ingredient is an open question. To some in the feed industry, any energy or protein source other than corn, soybean meal and fat is taken to be alternative. A better working definition of an alternative ingredient would be one:

  1. that has not previously been used on a regular basis
  2. whose nutrient composition has yet to be fully defined or
  3. for which maximum level of inclusion is unclear

Each of these points is deserving of comment.   End quote

All ingredients must provide commercially viable performance in the animal:

- number of viable eggs laid
- fertility and hatchability of those eggs
- survivability
- days taken to slaughter
- feed conversion (FCR)
- quality of the meat

The following table is a guide to productive, less productive and non-productive ingredients for ostrich as described here.

ingredients

Productive Charactheristics of Feed Ingredients for Ostrich [source: Blue Mountain Feeds]

Another very important section in the full article and may also help understand why feed ingredients are so critical to the success or failure of a livestock production enterprise:

Quote: Nutrient Content

There are very few alternative ingredients that are not already known to the feed industry. Their respective nutrient compositions are reported in standard tables of ingredient composition, and in the scientific literature.

However, such ingredients are often produced in relatively small facilities with variations in manufacturing procedures. A frequent result is that the same ingredient may vary markedly in nutrient composition when procured from different sources. A prime example is dried distillers grains plus solubles (DDGS), which is currently produced at more than one hundred and twenty locations in the US alone. The protein content of meals from these plants varies from less than 26 to over 29 per cent. If variation of this magnitude (about 10%) were to exist in soybean meal, the high and low protein samples would not even be sold as the same ingredient. End Quote

When evaluating the cost of feed "the cost per unit of production" is the important measure, the "cost per tonne" is usually irrelevant to this aim.  Therefore it makes sense that production should be geared to the markets available with known slaughter dates.  This aspect has been lacking in many ostrich production enterprises, especially challenting to achieve when starting a new ostrich production buisiness.

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