Formulating Against High Cereal Prices

11-08-2010 | |
Ioannis Mavromichalis

It is rather unfortunate that my first blog in World Poultry coincides with a worldwide crisis in the sector of cereals; but such developments are always a good opportunity in assessing our nutrition program!

So, cereals will be expensive and some experts believe they will be actually VERY expensive. There is nothing really to replace cereals, as any potential candidates have already been priced accordingly (one of the perils of globalization!) In other words, we must learn to survive and even turn a profit even with high cereal prices. This might be the time to actually start saving on feed cost for many poultry producers.
Yes, high cereal prices mean higher feed cost but if we take a close look in many existing formulas, for broiler and laying hens in particular, we may find ways to actually reduce overall ingredient cost. So, having high prices for cereals might not be the end of our business after all. To this end, I am offering below a number of areas where I have been able in the past to save a penny or cent when similar situations of high cereal prices came to the spotlight (yes, it happens once every few years!)
1. Reduce excess nutrient margins
Many nutritionists will insert generous safety margins, especially when it comes to amino acids, to ensure maximal productivity under a number of different commercial conditions. Having your nutritionist tailor the nutrient specifications of your formulas to the conditions and genetics of your farm/enterprise can make a lot of difference in your bottom line.
2. Match nutrient specifications to actual performance
Some will just copy the nutrient specifications provided from genetic companies without adjusting them for actual performance achieved in a specific farm. It is important to keep in mind that such ‘book values’ refer to maximal performance under near ideal conditions. What if you overcrowd the birds to maximize yield per square meter without paying much attention to individual growth? Do you still need such high-density diets?
3. Re-evaluate additives used
Some additives improve performance, others enhance health, yet others are there just to ensure some potential problem does not appear. But, under the current ‘crisis conditions’, it would be best to pick the ones which provide the best return on investment or highest security and remove the rest. In some cases, additives included to address a specific problem remain in formulations even when the problem ceases to exist (a prime example would be an additive against a specific health problem, or even a mycotoxin agent).
4. Watch out that vitamin-trace mineral premix
Yes, this is quite inexpensive, but in this business even pennies count, right? So, make sure you use all the vitamins you need, the trace minerals you require from the right type of salt, but don’t overdose birds. Finding the optimum level of supplementation where productivity and cost break even is the best solution when it comes to these premixes.
5. Challenge nutritional limits
This is best done by a qualified nutritionist, but when profitability turns to red, it is high time to start looking into using more of certain unconventional ingredients, increase a bit the fiber content, add a little more oil or fat, and explore another source of energy or protein previously considered not-so-prime after all. Yes, performance may drop, but if you start losing money for each egg you sell then a different type of economics comes into play.
6. Test new additives
This takes time, but if you can find an additive that actually improves feed conversion ratio then you have managed to make do with less feed for similar performance. In the case of cereals, I can only think now of enzymes that enhance the energy derived from non-starch polysaccharides. Finding the right enzyme for your blend of cereals can be a challenge, but so is this current situation.
So, what is your way of addressing the current crisis regarding high cereal prices?

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