Rising Poultry Feed Costs Challenges and Possible Solutions

In recent years, the Indian poultry industry has undergone a remarkable transformation, emerging as a prominent global player. As the third-largest egg producer and the fourth-largest chicken producer worldwide, India’s poultry sector has witnessed significant growth. The surge in per capita consumption of eggs and chicken, coupled with a population of 1.4 billion people and growing, presents immense opportunities for further expansion. However, amidst this promising landscape, the industry confronts a set of challenges that demand strategic interventions for sustained growth and competitiveness.

Over the last 25 years, India has experienced a substantial increase in per capita consumption of eggs and chicken. The national focus on development, improved health, and enhanced living conditions have led to a surge in demand for poultry products. Nutritionists recommend a minimum of 180 eggs and 10 kg of chicken per annum for a healthy adult, setting the stage for a vast market within the country. However, realizing the full potential of the industry requires addressing key challenges.

Among the many challenges in the Indian poultry sector, one major challenge is maintaining the highest productivity. The majority of poultry birds are housed in open sheds/farms without any control of the shed environment, exposing birds to various climate variations and potential diseases. To mitigate risks, the density of birds is often kept low, negatively impacting productivity per farm. Implementing modern technologies such as climate-controlled farms and automated feed lines are significantly helping to enhance productivity.

Another challenge is the lack of adequate storage, cold chain, and efficient transport systems, which pose significant obstacles in the marketing of the poultry products. Out of India’s total broiler birds and eggs produced, the major share is from six to seven states, necessitating the transportation of birds across states.

Another challenge is the availability of feed raw materials. Poultry farmers in India primarily rely on maize & soya bean meal for poultry feed production. Due to increased demand for these conventional ingredients sometimes leads to a shortage of these feed ingredients resulting in the usage of alternatives. This also presents opportunities for poultry feed manufacturers and dietary supplement producers to innovate some promising ingredients and feed additives.

The availability of skilled manpower for working in poultry farms, feed mills, hatcheries, and processing plants is also a significant concern. Manpower training programs and skill development can contribute to improving farm management and productivity in India.
In India, wet chicken marketing is dominating over processed chicken. In the past few years, many small chicken processing units have been coming up. Consumer preferences for freshly culled birds pose challenges to the establishment of clean and hygienic shops. Striking a balance between consumer preferences and industry standards is essential to meet domestic and international demand.

Feed Prices and Alternatives
The rising cost of feed, primarily composed of maize and soybean meal, necessitates the identification of alternative feed resources. Exploring unconventional feed materials can help overcome this limitation and ensure sustainable poultry production.

The Indian poultry industry faces a pressing issue with the escalating cost of feed, driven by factors such as low production, climate change affecting harvests, and increased demand for conventional feed ingredients. Rising feed prices necessitate a strategic approach to nutrition, emphasizing alternative feed materials.

Utilizing Alternative Feed Materials
To counter the impact of rising feed prices, poultry nutritionists are exploring alternative feed ingredients for poultry feed without a negative impact on productivity. Formulations based on digestible amino acid levels are crucial to maintaining the correct amino acid balance and level, ensuring optimal feed efficiency.

The cost of feed is a significant determinant of production cost per kg broiler or per egg, with feed prices experiencing a steady increase for more than a year. The disappointing harvests due to climate change, and increased demand for animal feed production have increased the poultry feed cost.

In poultry feed the cost of feed is very crucial, with energy (Metabolizable Energy) being one of the most expensive nutrients followed by the cost of protein and phosphorus. As the industry faces higher feed prices, the composition of poultry feed undergoes adjustments to manage costs. This includes a higher inclusion of alternative feedstuffs in poultry nutrition.

Alternative Feed Materials: A Key to Reducing Feed Costs
In response to rising feed prices, poultry nutritionists explore alternative feed materials to maintain cost-effectiveness without compromising nutritional quality. Commonly used alternative protein sources to replace soybean meal include sunflower meal, rapeseed meal, groundnut meal, distiller dried grains with soluble (DDGS), and meat and bone meal.
Meat and bone meal, in addition to being a valuable source of protein, also contribute to calcium and phosphorus levels in the diet. However, it’s essential to consider the potential drawbacks of using alternative ingredients, such as lower digestibility and utilization rates compared to soybean meal.

Considerations for Effective Utilization of Alternative Feed Materials:
While incorporating alternative ingredients into poultry diets, it is crucial to formulate based on digestible amino acid levels. Most alternative protein sources have different amino acid patterns compared to soybean meal, and formulating based on digestible amino acid levels helps maintain the correct amino acid balance and level.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that alternative ingredients often have lower digestibility and utilization rates compared to soybean meal. Several factors contribute to this, including higher levels of antinutritional factors in alternative protein sources, such as gossypol, glucosinolates, and trypsin inhibitors.

Furthermore, the quality of raw materials used in alternative feed ingredients can vary between processing plants and even between production shifts. As many by-products are residues generated during the production processes of oils and ethanol, their nutrient composition and protein quality may fluctuate, emphasizing the need for consistent quality control.

Impact of Proper Protein Digestibility on Sustainability
Proper protein digestibility is crucial for enhancing feed efficiency and, consequently, the sustainability of poultry production. Higher protein digestibility results in less protein leftovers at the end of the intestines, reducing the risk of intestinal health issues. Achieving optimal protein digestibility depends on various factors, including feed processing methods, heat treatment, grinding quality, raw material types, the inclusion of exogenous enzymes, and overall intestinal health.

Effective utilization of alternative protein sources should begin during the rearing period, gradually introducing new ingredients to the chicken diet. Close monitoring of feed intake and production results is essential when introducing new feed ingredients to understand their impact accurately. Analyzing these results helps prevent overestimation of the digestibility of the new feed composition, ensuring a smooth transition.

For energy, there are almost no alternatives for maize, availability of alternatives like broken rice, bajra, and sorghum is a concern. Moreover, these alternatives are mainly available in production areas only.

Utilization of alternative feed ingredients to the maximum also depends upon the logical usage of the feed enzymes and other feed additives.
While using alternatives, factors like, variable nutrient composition and quality, limited information regarding their inclusion levels & digestibility, metabolizable energy are the main concern. Also, presence of anti-nutritional factors, toxin and pesticides and their palatability needs to be considered.

While the Indian poultry industry faces a myriad of challenges, strategic interventions, and the exploration of alternative solutions present opportunities for growth and sustainability. Addressing these issues not only enhances productivity and efficiency but also contributes to the industry’s ability to compete globally.

From improving farm management standards to establishing efficient marketing systems and developing processing facilities, each aspect plays a crucial role in shaping the trajectory of the Indian poultry industry. Additionally, the current crisis of rising feed prices necessitates a proactive approach, with the effective utilization of alternative feed materials emerging as a key strategy to manage costs while ensuring the nutritional quality of poultry diets.

As the industry navigates these challenges and explores innovative solutions, the Indian poultry sector is poised to realize its full potential, meeting the demands of a growing population and contributing significantly to the global poultry market. Embracing sustainability, ethical practices, and technological advancements will be pivotal in shaping the future of the Indian poultry industry.

by Dr Sunil S Nadgauda, Venkateshwara B V Bio-Corp