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Feeding Poultry in an Increasingly Volatile Market

14 November 2012

Nowadays, one of the hottest issues in the global poultry industry is the high price of raw materials used for feed. Steve Wilson, from BOCM Pauls, offered an outlook on how producers are affected and what they can do in the face of these high prices and the volatile market. Nuria Martínez Herráez, ThePoultrySite editor, reports on the UK Poultry Meat Conference, held in Warwickshire in September 2012.

Dr Wilson opened his presentation with shocking figures about the wheat market in the UK: from June 2004 to July 2006, the market moved in a £13 range; just on 24 July 2012, the market moved in a £10 range. Moreover, what happened on 24 July 2012 is not an isolated case, it has happened several times in the last few years.

The main drivers of poultry diet formulation are:

  1. Nutrient responses, because different birds respond in different ways to the same nutrient. Therefore, producers need to know how their birds react to each nutrient.
  2. Bird genetics, because they lead to some changes in the feed industry.
  3. Performance aspirations for producers, who need to clearly determine what aims they are trying to achieve.
  4. Raw materials (RM) availability and cost, which has a growing importance given the current circumstances in the global market.

Dr Wilson posed some questions to the audience. In a volatile market context, what should we be looking at in feeding our chickens? Is the diet specification set for a maximum return or for maximum body weight? Are there any alternative raw materials to the ones the industry is currently using? Are there additives that can extract more of a diet's potential?

The relationship between wheat price and diet cost is linear in the UK at the moment: the higher the wheat price, the higher the relative diet cost. The relationship between metabolisable energy (ME) and relative diet cost was shown to be directly proportional: the higher the relative diet ME, the higher the relative diet cost.

However, when the bird's growth response to dietary energy was analysed, it could be seen how the curve goes down in bodyweight and diet ME after reaching the peaks of 2200 to 2220g for body weight at 42 days and around 13.50MJ per kg ME.

According to Dr Wilson, there is an influence of diet ME and wheat price on the financial return per bird: depending on prices, the optimum peak decreases. Therefore, are producers looking at the right diet density?

He suggested that there is likely a need for producers to challenge themselves on deciding what they want to achieve in terms of diet.

Alternative Raw Materials

Dr Wilson addressed alternative raw materials versus traditional raw materials used in poultry diets. He explained that formulations sometimes are determined by 'old taboos' but, given the current circumstances in the global grain market, it is possibly the right moment for the industry to challenge itself.

"So, what is out there that can potentially be good materials for poultry diets?", Dr Wilson asked. Some options were given in order to answer this question:

  • Alternative cereals
    • Barley
    • Sorghum
    • Oats
    • Triticale
  • Alternative proteins
    • Wheat DDGS
    • Rapeseed meals
    • Legumes
  • Co-products from the human food chain.

Regarding cereals, he remarked that alternative cereals might go up in price in line with traditional grains, like wheat or maize.

Regarding the alternative proteins, firstly, he explained, using some illustrations, that wheat DDGS increases the digestibility coefficient from darker to lighter grains.

Based on information from the HGCA Report 360, he said that the inclusion rapeseed meal in broiler starter diets had little impact on bodyweight at 42 days.

After these examples, Dr Wilson explained there might not be many true simple alternative raw materials out there but the growing area of co-products from human food chain is an interesting area to explore.

Adding Value to Raw Materials

If there are not many other new raw materials, can we add more value to our existing raw materials? Dr Wilson gave the audience a positive answer.

Some of the options are:

  • Physical and chemical processing
  • Use of feed additives
    • Extended use of synthetic amino acids
    • Use of probiotics and prebiotics
    • Use of essential oils
    • Enzymes

Regarding raw material processing, Dr Wilson cited the example of 'CanPro IP Insoluble Protein'. This is a high quality insoluble protein concentrate with low molecular weight, low antigenicity and low phytate. It is an economically attractive substitute for fishmeal, soy protein concentrates and animal-based proteins. Its main nutrient components are crude protein (67.9 per cent), crude fibre (3.87 per cent) and lysine (3.38 per cent).

Regarding the use of feed additives, as it was shown through some graphics, the Apparent Metabolisable Energy (AME) of wheat without enzymes could be reached by barley with the addition of the enzymes, xylanase and glucanase.

Plus, it was shown that sorghum AME could be improved due to the influence of enzymes (xylanase, phytase, protease). Either on their own or in combination, they raised the AME of the sorghum.


To sum up his paper, Dr Wilson stated that there is a need to have a clear idea of what a producer is trying to achieve (for instance, maximise body weight or maximise live weight returns).

Producers also need to know their birds because, as Dr Wilson said, "a chicken does not know the price of wheat". Therefore, producers need to know the responses to different nutrients before making any change to their birds' diet.

There is a need for challenging the existing constraints in the industry, he said, and a better understanding of the composition of the materials can help, such as how processing can improve their composition.

The inclusion of additives needs to be reviewed to maximise the diet's potential.

Dr Wilson concluded that a balance is needed between change and stability in order to succeed.

November 2012

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