Understanding the Feed Economics

ch1Firstly, on behalf of  “Think Grain Think Feed” we would like to congratulate you on your successful journey of more than three decades of dedicated service to Indian Feed Industry in general and Poultry industry in particular. In fact, you have been one of the pioneer poultry scientists to create awareness on the quality assurance of poultry feed, which subsequently revolutionized the poultry industry in the country.

Would you please elaborate further on role and significance of feed safety/ quality control in Feed industry?
It is a well known fact that feed is the major expenditure in chicken and egg production. Maintaining the consistent quality of the feed is very important in order to ensure standard productivity of the final stuff. Feed safety has become the main criteria, not only from animal point of view, but also from human point of view. Because if the feed contain the residue/organism which have a deleterious effect on humans, then the entire human population eating that processed animal product like egg/meat etc. is affected. Hence, food safety should be considered with feed safety.
Please share your views about the challenges faced by Indian feed industry. What kind of future trends do you expect in improving feed quality?
With regard to the challenges faced by the Indian feed industry, I must say that it is passing through a very critical juncture presently. Cereals and oil meal production in our country for the past 7 years is constant or declining, whereas the growth in the poultry industry ranges between 5-10 per cent, thus, adding more pressure on the raw material front. We are really struggling to maintain the feed quality as we are forced to accept the feed ingredients as per their availability in the market. Because of this, feed quality as well as feed safety is becoming the major constraint in the growth of a healthy industry in India.
Would you please give a comparative statement of changing feed economics in broiler and layer industry during the last decade?
The table indicates the increase feed price was several times higher than the increase in the product rate. Further the other overheads increase was not always linear but sometimes exponential, leading to severe loss to the poultry farmers. The stability in the rates of egg and chicken in the last two years was mainly due to closure of farms and in some cases due to reduction in their capacity.
You have also done research work in alternative feed resources. What kind of scope do you see in the Indian market for these alternative feed resources, vis a vis the traditional raw materials (corn and soybean) on which the feed industry in India is still heavily dependent?
Alternative feed resources have been extensively evaluated and is being regularly used, but volume is not there. In the year 2015 when soybean meal cost shot up alternatively gingely cake was used in Namakkal the entire stock in Tamil Nadu was exhausted in a weeks’ time. Further, the yield potential of these alternative ingredients are very low compared to corn and soybeans hence improving the production of corn and soybeans is the only alternative. The major problem is the variability in the quality of the ingredients. As an example, the protein content of the soybean meal varies from 43% to 52%, consequently the fibre content varies between 6 and 8%. It is the same with other protein meals. Similarly, the quality of corn is also highly variable. One litre weight (bulk density) varied from 720gms to 800gms, indicating the variability in the ME value. This forces the poultry feed manufacturer to alter the formulation very often, in order to maintain the productivity and FCR.
ch3How do you compare feed manufacturing technology in India today as compared to that of developed nations?
There was a wide gap in the earlier years but now the differences have been narrowed down, as the quality of our machinery has improved over the years. The major snag is the quality of the raw materials. The fungal count in maize ranges from 1 to 10 per cent acceptable norm is less than 2 per cent. The number of grains in 100gms of maize ranged between 350 to 400 and the majority were above 375, indicating that ME value will be less than 3300kcal/kg. It is similar with other ingredients. Bag to bag variation is the major problem causing high variation in the FCR. Whereas in western countries the major advantage is consistency in the grain count in 100gms, which is always less than 350, indicating the ME value to be between 3350 to 3400kcal/kg.
In recent past, Indian poultry industry had to go through very tough times. As an industry expert, what can be the solutions to cope-up with such bad phases?
Feed is hurting the industry badly, feed raw material availability is nearly constant but the broiler industry is growing by 7-10 per cent and layer industry is growing by 5 per cent per year, further pressure is felt from dairy industry as well. Due to this, the raw material prices are shooting up while eggs and chicken price is not increasing in tune with the feed price. Luckily in the first half of 2016, the prices of egg and chicken were good.
Import of GM feed ingredients in the country is another constraint. Neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan are importing feed ingredients comparatively at lower cost. Further more, the livestock feed in India is not free from GM products, we are now using the BT cotton seed and cake in not only cattle feed but de-oiled cotton seed meal is also used in poultry feed. Hence liberalizing the imports of GM feeds at a cheaper price appears to be the viable alternative for pushing forward the feed industry in India.
Would you please throw some light on importance of understanding feed pellets and its relation to improved feed quality as well as its energy savings benefits?
Pellets and crumbles are extensively used in broiler feeding. The advantage of pellets over mash is that there is no selective feeding and the time needed for consumption is also less compared to mash. The cooking effect increases the ME availability by 2 to 3 per cent apart from that there is reduction in microbial load. But some of the integrators are still using mash feed for broilers with equally good results. In some western countries also the initial feed is crumbles followed by mash and the performance has been observed to be better than crumbles and pellet diet. For layers and parents it is mostly mash feed, as it has been proved that the increased particle size challenges the gizzard there by the digestion of the feed which is better compared to the pellet diet.
Considering the challenges with shrinking acreage for the cultivation of feed crops, resulting in lesser availability of raw materials, how do you think the feed industry shall look like 10-20 years down the road?
India with 160 million hectares of arable land is second to USA in the world ranking. The renewable water resource of 11970 cuM/Ha is far higher than some of the western countries but the per hectare productivity is far lower compared to other countries. The corn production in India is 2.5MT/Ha the world average is 5MT/Ha and US average is 10MT/ha Ukraine with a renewable water resource of only 4299cuM/Ha the corn production is 3.5tons/ha. In our neighbourhood the productivity is Bangladesh 7MT/Ha, Pakistan 4MT/Ha Sri lanka 3MT/Ha.
Similarly in soybean production we are one of the lowest in the world, it is 0.98MT/Ha whereas it is 1.5MT in Bangladesh, 1.7MT in Sri Lanka, 3MT in USA and 3.3MT/Ha in Italy. It is the same for other feed ingredients. Hence with the same land area if we can increase the productivity equal to that of our neighbours we can easily tide over the feed ingredient crises.