Finding the Harmony in Animal Nutrition Volatility

May 25, 2020

Author: Guy Soreq

As some commodity markets remain oversupplied while others experience vast shortages, nutritionists across the globe are being challenged to capture the full economic value of feed ingredients. The magic here depends on continuously managing the delicate harmony between the three most expensive nutritional feed components - energy, amino acids and phosphorus - while taking into account the purchase price of each ingredient based on minimum guarantees for crude protein and crude fat.

Dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) have been an excellent choice for farmers seeking this balance. As a by-product of ethanol production, they typically represent a less expensive option still rich in crude protein and amino acids as well as some minerals like phosphorus. Of course, the concentrations, balance and digestibility of amino acids in DDGS are inferior to that of soybean meal so crystalline lysine, threonine and tryptophan are supplemented to make it a good fit for many rations, including swine, poultry, and dairy cattle. As such, farmers across the world have come to rely on them.

Finding the Harmony in Animal Nutrition Volatility

But since the crash in demand for gasoline amid the COVID-19 pandemic (we’re now seeing a return in many parts of the world!), the price of DDGS skyrocketed. Since almost all of the gasoline sold in the United States is blended with ethanol, the reduction in gasoline consumption led to a proportional drop in ethanol usage. Due to limited ethanol production, the availability of DDGS dropped substantially. And as we’ve seen on Glowlit, the amino acids used to supplement DDGS have also seen huge increases in price since COVID-19.

Some animal feed producers switched to alternatives such as soybean meal, but those unable to switch were caught paying a heavy price tag. This is especially troublesome in a highly volatile market, in which costs cannot always be passed down along the supply chain. To maintain consistent nutrient supply and animal performance at the lowest cost possible, a mixture of technical prowess, operational agility, and a bit of creativity are needed to enable ration reformulation. Bringing harmony to precision feed, while balancing cost considerations, is a bit like making music. Professional musicians have had years of training and preparation. But the very best, are also masters of improvisation.