1-877-625-4400 info@grandvalley.com

By Dr. Martin Clunies
Monogastric Nutritionist, 
Grand Valley Fortifiers

The decision to make your farms’ poultry feeds on farm is predicated on a number of relevant factors. The first is, “what are the comparative costs for feeds manufactured on farm versus those purchased from a commercial feed mill; before variable costs and fixed costs are allocated?”. The next is the capital cost of building an on-farm feed mill as this determines the feed mill costs allocated per tonne of manufactured feed. How easy or complex is it to run the mill, both in the technology used and man hours per tonne, and finally what is the capacity of the mill?

The first part of making the cost comparison, is to have a feed program designed, which can be easily costed monthly or weekly in which the ingredient costs can be included to generate the overall or blended feed costs. This can then be compared to commercial feed costs. Capital costs include all the costs associated with the construction of the feed mill. The capital cost of constructing an on-farm mill should be amortized over the useful life of the assets that you have purchased, which would be at least 20 years. If your mill was built to manufacture 10,000 tonnes per year and you financed this project at 3.5% per annum, the capital cost of each tonne of feed over that 20 years would be $6.94 per tonne. In order to show that $6.94 per tonne is a number that can be justified, let’s compare that to the cost per tonne of a commercial mill. The capital cost of a 250,000 tonne per year commercial mill would be around $28,000,000. Using the same financing rates and an amortization of 20 years, the capital cost of feed over that period would be $7.78 per tonne. This exercise shows that with a capital investment, you can be competitive with the commercial mills in manufacturing your complete feed on farm.

Twelve Month Update

The last 12 months have been a busy one for the poultry team at Grand Valley Fortifiers. During that time we have added a dedicated poultry specialist with Ryan Snyder joining our team. Ryan is a doctoral student completing his studies on coccidiosis in broiler chickens in the Department of Epidemiology of the Ontario Veterinary College. Ryan has an article in this Grist detailing some of the results of his research. There have been two new on-farm mills that have been commissioned, and while there have been challenges, results have been on good, on average. With the CFIA approval of SoulStone Poultry Inc. and other on-farm mills as commercial feed mills, there are a number of poultry producers feeding mash to their broilers with good results.

During the last year we have worked with customers on a wide array of projects; from the traditional commercial production systems, to RWA for Broilers and Turkeys, Organic, Non-GMO, Omega-3 Broiler and Eggs programs for their operations. Having worked for more than a decade with RWA Broiler and Turkeys in Ontario and for more than 8 years in the USA we appreciate the opportunity to be innovative with producers on the frontier of these market opportunities. The USA poultry business is a most interesting space to work in, with many categories of production, with fast, early success becoming first movers’ advantage. Omega-3 broiler with its nutritional advantage is a difficult category selling against the low-fat themes, reversing the low fat trend by recognizing that some fats are good . This is a contradiction to the current wave of low fat popularity. The last three years we expanded our layer nutrition footprint with cage free housing or aviary systems. More recently, we looked to upgrade our broiler feeding program, and for customers wishing to do so we offer a crumbled Pre-starter fed for the first 7 to 14 days. While results differ from producer to producer, broiler growth now appears to be 1.5 to 2.5 days behind for 2.0 – 2.2 kg birds fed pellets. However, the improved feed conversions and lower feed costs, drier litter, lower mortality and condemnations that producers feeding mash are achieving make a compelling argument for more poultry producers to research the ROI of on-farm mash feed manufacturing.

We have also been busy running broiler trials which include; mash feeds versus crumbles/pellets using the same formulations for both, mash versus crumb pre-starters, RWA versus medicated programs, and comparison of different genetic strains on mash and pellets. With research trials being conducted in both the USA and Canada, we remain excited about the potentials. While all the results are not yet collated the results have been most interesting to say the least. All of these will trial results will be reported in future editions of the GVF Poultry Grist.

Poultry Footprint

A word on poultry footprint, in our region of North America: corn represents the greatest conversion of energy from the sun to organic matter. Corn also provides the greatest yield per acre of our commercial grain crops, so the more corn and corn products that can be used in poultry diets represents the most efficient conversion of farm acres to poultry products. Also, the impact of using your own corn has a huge impact on the utilization of nearby resources. More to follow on this topic in future issues.

Feed Particle Size

Just as with pellet/crumb equality the particle size of the mash feed has a big impact on the feed consumption of poultry. While adult birds are selective eaters or pickers they appear to be less so than younger birds. Poultry are by nature pickers and given the choice, have a given preference for a particular particle depending on their age and beak size. Starting young broilers on mash feeds, where 7 and 14 day weights are important determinants of weight for age at marketing can be challenging, mainly due to the resulting increased variation in early body weight. Tests regarding particle size distribution of mash feed from the hopper in the barn versus the mash feed from the feed pan the birds eat from revealed that the birds consumed most of the feed particles greater than 700 microns, leaving a disproportionate amount of the finer particles in the feeder. When we compare the nutrient profile of the ingredients in the hopper and the feeder what we see is the mash in the feeder was higher in protein, which gives the appearance that thebird was selecting for a lower protein. In actual fact, the protein sources for this feed was finely ground and so the birds were selecting a greater proportion of the coarser corn particles. Decreasing the particle size of the corn, and increasing the grind size of the protein source resolved most of the selective eating of the young chick and reduced the early variation in body weight at 7 and 14 days of age.

This article was written for the Fall 2020 Poultry Grist. To read the whole Poultry Grist, click the button below.