Optimizing Feed Cost In Poultry Production

May 28, 2023

Feed cost in poultry production

Feed cost 70% of total production

One of the biggest challenges for livestock and poultry production is the ever-increasing cost of feed, which accounts for about 70% of total production expenses. Furthermore, feed ingredients increased by 30% in some regions, making feed cost optimization a high priority for every producer. The poultry industry relies on maximum efficiency and small margins; therefore, costs and profitability are constantly being observed and considered by many as a pressure point in decision making.

Grain quality and price fluctuation

Grain quality and price fluctuation

Livestock producers face challenging times and must be rational and creative to continue managing profitable operations. The feed grain and oilseed prices have been rising like never before. The variation and poor quality of grains are also significant concerns. In part, this can be explained by weather events in producing countries. These events are a reminder that global agriculture climate change impacts are already a reality. The COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions in the supply chain with rising shipping prices to record-highs are among the other factors that affect grain price fluctuations.

Supply shortages

Not only internationally traded food and feed commodity prices spiked in the last decade, but the prices of crude oil, metals and fertilizer as well, which strongly affect the cost of feed ingredients. The livestock industry may expect that volatility in feed commodity prices and struggling supplies due to scarcity will continue in the coming years and, consequently, affect production. This could even become more serious because of geopolitical tensions and trade barriers often caused by a lack of harmonized legislation and the great dependency on global sourcing. In addition, we should not forget that producing the additional food needed to feed all people and livestock in 2050 will require a 9 percent expansion of arable land, a 14 percent increase in cropping intensity and a 77 percent increase in yields. Therefore sustainable strategies need to be adopted to enable more efficient use of resources in the short and long term.

Potential for improvement 

Productivity and efficiency in livestock production have increased tremendously in the last decades. Several indicators demonstrate that further optimization of the productivity and efficiency in animal production is potentially still possible. The genetic potential is only partially utilized, the utilization of most nutrients appears to be low, and there is a considerable variation in performance among farms and within farms among animals. Productivity, on average, is 30-40% below their genetic potential because of suboptimal conditions and health status.

The use of alternative feed ingredients 

High grain prices make alternative ingredients more attractive. When partially replacing soybean meal, DDGS and rape seed meal, both by-products of the biofuel industry, are of particular interest. However, their protein digestibility is lower than soy and can be more variable. DDGS, in particular, poses a relatively high risk for mycotoxin contamination; thus, raw material quality has to be controlled carefully. Furthermore, nutrient concentration and digestibility vary among sources, and accurate in vitro methods must be developed to predict amino acid digestibility.

Rape seed meal or other by-products from the plant oil industry are potentially good protein sources, although, in diets for young animals, only low levels should be incorporated. Several publications have reported cost savings using rape seed meal as a protein source. Nevertheless, any such trial data must be assessed considering current market prices.

Additionally, more alternative feed ingredients are used in other parts of the world, mainly driven by the high cost of importing corn and soybean meal. These alternative feed ingredients tend to be highly variable and must be analyzed for nutritional composition. The most common alternative feed ingredients are DDGS, Rape seed meal, sorghum,  corn gluten meal, canola meal, cassava meal, rice bran, palm kernel meal and cottonseed meal.

Maximizing nutrients digestibility

Taking measures to maximize nutrient digestibility is crucial to feed cost optimization. Different factors such as diet composition, quality of ingredients, diet processing and enzyme use affect diet digestibility. Grinding (particle size) and thermal treatment are the two key issues in the feed manufacturing process that impact diet digestibility. Pelleting and other thermal treatments can improve diet digestibility. Particle size and overall feed structure are other factors to review and optimize. 

Protein and energy are the main costs of poultry nutrition; nutritionists can significantly impact feed costs by influencing nutrients. Feed enzymes represent one of the greatest tools available to nutritionists that are primarily focused on saving feed costs by improving feed utilization. Moreover, enzymes reduce the environmental impact of animal production and improve gut health and animal welfare.

The high prices of corn and soybean meal present an ideal opportunity for the nutritionist to use digestive enzymes.

In poultry diets, high protein and non-starch polysaccharides concentrations have been shown to favour the proliferation of potential pathogens such as Clostridium perfringens. High protein concentrations will also lead to increased uric acid in the excreta, which is linked to higher litter moisture, and, consequently, hock, feet and breast lesions. Thus protein digestion should be maximized by using proteases in the diet.

Carbohydrases break down non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) that interfere with energy utilization and protein digestion. Cereals, such as corn and wheat, contain a high amount of arabinoxylans. Wheat contains almost double the amount of arabinoxylans in corn (Table 1). On the other hand, soybean meal contains a small percentage of arabinoxylans but a higher percentage of pectins and oligosaccharides.

Table 1 Relative NSPs (%) in feed ingredients

The types of NSPs in the diets change from starter to finisher diets. In a typical feeding program, a protein source, such as a soybean meal, will decline from starter to finisher, while the energy source of the diet, such as corn or wheat, will increase, causing changes in the types of NSPs in the feed. Therefore, supplementing different types of carbohydrases is important to consider. 

Phytate binds to minerals, protein, fat and starch
Phytate binds to minerals, protein, fat and starch

Phosphorus is an essential mineral required by all animals. 90% of the total phosphorus in oilseeds and cereals is in the form of phytate. Birds are limited in their ability to break down phytate. Phytate also binds with several minerals, protein, fat and starch, thereby reducing these nutrients' availability. Phytases are used to improve the nutrient digestibility of phytate-bound phosphorus by breaking the ester bonds linking the phosphates in the phytate, allowing the animal to utilize more of the phosphorus contained therein.

Young birds only have the capability to produce very small amounts of an enzyme. The bird's intestinal tract is not fully developed at hatch and does not produce critical enzymes such as amylase and lipase, which are required for nutrient digestion. It is essential to provide the bird with supplemental enzymes to improve energy and protein digestibility throughout the first days post-hatch and before intestinal maturation.

Therefore, addressing this issue with only one type of enzyme throughout the feeding program will partially alleviate the problem. A multi-enzyme product can potentially break down different substrates to maximize nutrient release and optimize feed cost.

Biofeed's digestibility and performance program offer the Fullzyme® range of multiple and single enzyme products that provide the most cost-effective solutions to your feed formulations.


Biofeed's digestibility and performance program
Click here to learn more about Biofeed's digestibility and performance solutions

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