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Animal Health

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Livestock Production
Thursday, July 21, 2016 3:52:48 PM
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Wake-up call: the dark truth about feed pelleting and the processed feed quality


Steven Goh, director of Delst Asia



To address this topic, let me start by looking at the direction that the industry seems to be heading towards …….We start to see a new trend where more industry experts realize the concern to meet new challenges ahead, and hence the need to look for answers to face these challenges. These are some quotes from industry experts at a Poultry Feed Quality Conference in 2015.


Quote: "Today's broilers are advanced birds that have specific needs for feeds, nutrients, and supplements for peak growth performance"…….. The producers are also quickly realizing this, and obviously concerned about nutrient availability to poultry.


Quote: "Poultry producers and nutritionists learnt that moving on to a more complex feeding system, one that takes into consideration the chicken's immune systems, can enhance productivity………………


Quote: "Improving diet digestibility, increasing nutrient levels or adding otherwise cost prohibitive additives can improve broiler health and growth during first week. If this sets the bird up for robust growth later, it may be economically justified and could be considered an investment."…………….


Quote: "Additional digestible amino acids were beneficial at 10% above breeder recommendations for the first 10 days."


How are nutritionists and industry experts approaching this matter then?……………Animal Nutrition Solutions – adding more to the current energy/protein nutrition requirement geared towards improved productivity. Looking at adding more micronutrients ( glutamic acids, omega 3 fatty acid, selenium, vitamin E ) to immune challenges required for a healthy performing flock.


If I am to decipher these quotes, I would say that the industry is heading in the wrong direction and this will not at all help to do this business productively and profitably. The worrying part is that until today, the industry has failed to recognize the real issues that affect feed quality and poultry performance – and hence, not really addressing the challenges of poultry health and growth performance with the right approach.


What the industry failed to recognize is that poor feed processing has contributed to degradation of essential micronutrients and improper cooking of raw starch, and the result is processed feed with poor nutrient value and poor feeding value. This is the dark truth, where valuable micronutrients are wasted and not made available to boost poultry immune and health. Not cooking the raw starch well will not only affect the feed form but affect starch gelatinization for improved digestibility and growth performance. Are nutritionists even aware that poor feed processing affect their work? A well formulated feed can be murdered by improper feed processing. Sadly, feed nutrition then becomes centered around the use of problem masking feed additives, which has been the industry norm making feed additives a multi billion dollar business. This practice of reacting to problems will add costs, resulting in nutritionists to be very cautious in selecting products based on costing - comparing cost basing on dose rate or even on price as a priority in making a decision in using a specific feed additive. Sadly, this is how the industry has been operating all these years, pushing feed additives companies to outsell their competitors based on cost of application - pushing down dose rate as the important selling criteria, without caring for the real objective of using a certain product. As a consequence, problems are never correctly, nor effectively addressed, and the industry continues to be stuck with age-old problems. Worst still is the need to face tomorrow's challenges. The spiraling ingredient cost and the need for nutrient density to meet the genetic requirements is not going to makes things any easier for doing this business productively and profitably.


The industry is basically too feed nutrition centric without realizing that the whole issue can be addressed by looking at the fundamental of doing this business correctly. I would suggest that the industry take 3 steps back and relook at how they need to improve feed processing for better feed quality, before moving forward again to look at new scientific ideas and development in feed nutrition. Nutritionists are certainly aware of these facts, and are now scrambling to find an answer, but not realising that the much needed answers lies in feed processing. To make matter worse, feed processing equipment manufacturers are not helping much to address the core issue in feed pelleting. Not aptly identifying the real objective of feed pelleting is the real cause. The objective of feed pelleting is to cook raw starch. To cook raw starch, there is a need to hydrolyze the mash sufficiently ( moisture must penetrate into the feed chemistry – starch / protein / fibre etc)


An approach to hydrolyse the mash sufficiently is of paramount importance. Get this wrong, and it will snow ball into a host of problems, from feed production, to feed nutrition costing, and affecting poultry performance at the farm level. Just imagine, the mega amount of monies involved here…….


Just to name some:

1) Production efficiency (capacity) - cost per MT pellet produced

2) Production shrink (moisture loss after the pelleting process) - suffers in the range of 1-3% moisture shrink. Every 0.5% moisture shrink is worth Usd 9 at todays feed cost

3) Poor die life - cost of replacement

4) Feed pellet quality - feed form affects growth performance

5) Micronutrient damage and wastage (vitamins / amino acids / enzyme) - valuable nutrients are wasted and not made available to the animals

6) Poor feeding value due to improper cooking of starch - this affect digestibility and available energy value

7) Over compensation of nutrient and energy into the feed formulation – increasing feed costs again

8) Affects poultry immune, health and growth performance - compromising profits

9) Increased treatment cost at the farm level - costs on medication

10) The breeder flock is the core of an integration operation and must be kept healthy throughout the production period - breeders and integrators has no means of controlling this matter. Huge onsequential losses.


To address this matter, we have developed a methodological approach in managing a multitude of parameters in the feed pelleting process which greatly contributes to the effective hydration of mash. This is the basis for production efficiency at the feedmill and effective raw starch cooking………with the objective of producing a well formed pellet and pellet feed quality with all nutrients intact and enhanced from a well formulated feed.


Simply by addressing these parameters:

1)  Compounded mash temperature in the tropics ranges from 38C to 44C. This poses a set back in steam/mash interaction.

2)  Managing mash moisture before and after steam conditioning

3)  Steam management

4)  Steam temperature and steam volume deployed in the conditioner

5)  Sufficient conditioning residence time


Water added at the mixer and water from the condensing steam at the conditioner must be effectively hydrolyzed (infused) into the mash. We have the "chemical technology" to bond moisture to the mash.


How nutrient value is lost in processed feed


Poor steam conditioning will end up with a poorly hydrolysed mash resulting in difficulties at the press. Forcefully pushing the badly conditioned and poorly hydrolysed mash through the die, results in maillard reaction (amino acid reacting with reducing sugar from the friction heat) and dextrinization (basically burnt to a certain extent through a thick die passage). These problems are more noticeable with the use of thicker die (for a high die compression rate) to achieve the obsession of a good PDI……..This has a detrimental impact on micro nutrients and macro nutrients………much valuable nutrients are not only wasted, but worse still, the shortfalls now affect livestock immune, health, and productivity……….


The biggest worry now is the trend in producing broilers without the use of AGPs (antibiotic growth promoters)…… with Europe leading the way! Is this practical at all in the challenging tropics or hot humid environment? Again, Europe is encouraging supplements in the use of more expensive new generation alternative feed additives such as secondary plant compound products, organic acids, and enzymes (claiming its being used widely in Europe), as a replacements to AGPs.


What affects feeding value


Poor mash hydrolysation, poor steam management, and insufficient conditioning time greatly affects proper starch cooking. Amylase enzyme can digest gelatinized starch much better in the gut, and hence enhancing the energy value. Nutritionist can lower energy value in the feed formulation if they understand how to cook raw starch effectively.


The main objective of feed pelleting is to cook raw starch well (especially the amylose fraction which provides the gelling effect), to achieve a high degree of starch gelatinisation for good intra-particles bonding plus good feeding value. However, the industry never really manage to cook raw starch well due to the poor understanding of raw starch cooking in a dry medium (the entire pelleting process is very much a dry medium), and hence the execution was never done correctly. Engineering set-up, machines used, boiler/steam management, and mash moisture management are all important factors that determines raw starch cooking. Failure to cook raw starch well has cost the industry dearly since it affect feed production efficiency, and the final feed quality ( compromised nutrient value / feeding value ) - consequently affecting livestock health / growth performance at the farm level. The need to add more costs to the feed formulation is standard practice to mask problems.




I have laid down my thoughts that raise concern for a wake-up call. The dark truth is that the industry is wasting lots of monies and some may not even realize that this is actually happening. The industry do not realize that nutrient value of a well formulated feed are wasted away due to poor feed processing, and that starch are so poorly cooked or even at all cooked, which affects the feeding value of a well formulated feed……These problems affect livestock health and growth performance……NOT mentioning the mega amount of monies a feed company loses each year. My work can help a large feedmill operation (especially those integrated with livestock operation) save back multi-millions dollars which would have otherwise gone down the drain and wasted, without them even knowing about it. This is the dark truth!


Interested parties can check with me via this forum on how I address these very complex parameters in the feed pelleting process to achieve my main objective of cooking raw starch. My work is proven with results. I would like to help any feed companies who are interested to sort out their problems – to recover wastage and to do this business efficiently, productively, and profitably.


Feed processing do play a pivotal role to feed quality and livestock performance. Constantly reacting to problems by adding more costs to mask the problems is not the answer to facing tomorrow's challenges.



For more of the article, please click here.


Article made possible through the contribution of Steven Goh and Delst Asia

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