Health & Nutrition Challenges 

Feed Cost Optimization

Feed cost in Swine Production

One of the biggest challenges for livestock 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 swine 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

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-high 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 the world population 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. 

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