Leveraging the value of feed data

Around the world, and across a range of industries, the use of data is changing management approaches, improving decision-making and driving operational efficiencies. But how can the poultry industry, in particular, source and leverage the value of feed data? Trouw Nutrition’s NutriOpt – and in particular, its Broiler Model – is a game changer by helping to optimise poultry nutrition quickly and efficiently.

“Without data, you are blind, deaf and in the middle of the highway,” wrote the American organisational theorist Geoffrey Moore. Indeed, around the world, the instrumental use of data is revolutionising the way we live and work – and the poultry industry is no exception. Undeniably, the use of data is helping poultry producers to achieve new levels of efficiency and effectiveness in the key areas that matter the most. Above all, as all commercial poultry producers will know, optimising their animal feed is crucial to driving profitability; feed is not only the largest cost item in operation (commonly accounting for up to 70% of total production costs), but it also has a direct and significant impact on the health and performance of birds.

Optimising broiler feeding programmes for both performance and profitability is a complex process. Photo: Trouw Nutrition
Optimising broiler feeding programmes for both performance and profitability is a complex process. Photo: Trouw Nutrition

As such, in today’s competitive poultry industry, being able to precisely optimise the composition of feed ensures the optimal financial margins and the best chances of meeting broiler performance targets. What’s more, to achieve these targets, the composition of the feed must be corrected regularly, according to variations in the nutrient composition, the cost of the raw materials, changing broiler meat market conditions and the physiological demands made on the animals.

Complex factors affecting feed optimisation

Optimising broiler feeding programmes for both performance and profitability is a complex process. Protein and energy are key nutrients in broiler diets, and nutritionists tend to formulate diets to maximise zoo-technical broiler performance with predefined protein and energy content. Relatively high protein and energy diets are needed to maximise growth rates, in addition to promoting a minimal feed-conversion ratio.

However, this strategy often requires expensive diets, which could reduce financial profitability – and importantly, maximising financial parameters does not necessarily maximise performance parameters. Figure 1 shows that a diet with less metabolic energy (2,900 kcal/kg) produces a higher financial margin than one with higher energy (3,100 kcal/kg).

Figure 1 – Maximum gross margin ≠ maximum broiler performance.

Leveraging the value of feed data

However, simply reducing protein and energy levels might not be the most profitable approach either, since gross margins depend not only on feed prices but also on live bird and/or meat prices, and there is no linear relationship between changes in feed nutrient composition and broiler performance results. Therefore, consideration of the whole broiler production process is crucial in order to correctly modify feed formulations and thus maximise broiler operation profits.

Making the most of data

So, how can you know if the composition of your feed is right for your poultry? And how could this knowledge be obtained in a convenient, reliable and cost-efficient way? These are the challenges that my company, Trouw Nutrition, has been attempting to tackle head-on by leveraging our long experience in developing animal nutrition solutions and modelling programmes, and our world-leading nutritional database and insights. In particular, our NutriOpt platform is a modular precision-feeding system made up of several elements that offer the latest nutritional science data and technology. When used together, these elements make it possible for producers to precisely fine-tune their feeding strategies. They can precisely calculate the most economically efficient approach under current market conditions that will produce optimal results. Above all, NutriOpt allows producers to accurately optimise their nutrition approach based on available ingredients and comprehensive scientific data.

Trouw Nutrition Broiler Model

A key element of NutriOpt is the Broiler Model – a complete Broiler modelling programme that can help nutritionists to decide on changes in broiler feed formulation based on the economic consequences for producers. The empirical model includes dose-response curves showing the effect of energy and protein in feed on broiler chickens’ performance. Protein content is modelled by digestible lysine (dLys) and energy by apparent metabolisable energy corrected by zero-Nitrogen retention (AMEn) levels in the feed. The model predicts how performance (both technical and economical) can be improved on the farm when dLys and AMEn levels in feeds are changed.

Figure 2 – Graphic representation of broiler model inputs and outputs.

Leveraging the value of feed data

This integrated model provides an intuitive and easy-to-use solution for poultry producers and nutritionists. It helps them define the best strategy to improve broiler performance and profitability by adapting feeding programmes to changing market conditions (raw material prices and prices of poultry products) and ingredient nutrient variation. This is possible thanks to precise analysis and real-time interaction between raw material costs and chicken sales prices, and through modelling and calculations that are converted into actionable information. The model can also predict the impact of new feed programmes on broiler performance and profitability. These predictions will show an alternative feed nutrient composition that allows nutritionists to refine the feed to maximise both performance and profitability (Table 1). The model requires very little input (Figure 2) and can deliver tables and graphs with both technical and economic information.

Raw material management

To easily obtain data on nutrient raw material composition, producers can use our near infrared spectroscopy (NIR) technology. This combined with one of the largest nutritional calibration databases in the industry, allow poultry producers to immediately check the quality of both their raw materials and their final product and thus capture any variation. The database uses dynamic equations to calculate nutrient content and nutrient digestibility for a more precise nutrient supply. This, linked to the broiler model, will deliver more accurate animal performance predictions. It also allows producers to link the results to nutritional quality parameters such as reactive lysine, making sure that their standards are met and that customers receive high-quality products.

Best possible outcome

Indeed, if a poultry professional uses NutriOpt to quickly and efficiently assess and estimate nutrient composition and quality of the raw materials, their wider feeding strategy can be adapted according to these results. In this way, the poultry professional can make use of the insights in raw material quality at any given moment, and optimise a feeding programme to specific cost or nutritional requirements.

What’s more, Trouw Nutrition’s NutriOpt Broiler model, according to the variation of the nutrient raw material composition and feed cost, can then be used to predict the impact of the new feed programme on the broiler performance and profitability. At the same time, the NutriOpt Broiler model predictions will show an alternative feed nutrient composition that allows nutritionists to refine the feed to maximise the performance and financials, according to the new nutrient composition of the raw materials.

In short, with such powerful, objective feed insights now easily available to poultry producers and animal nutritionists around the world, it seems hard to imagine that the future poultry industry will not be data driven. And, in particular, poultry enterprises that are able to successfully leverage the value of feed data look well placed to achieve their business goals and maximise their success.

Click here for more information about NutriOpt.

Author: Felipe Sánchez Fernández, Trouw Nutrition