3 August 2001

KEEP TABS ON FEED PRICES

By Jeremy Hunt

KEEPING a close eye on the prices and availability of straights and by-product feeds over the coming weeks could be worthwhile, according to Cumbria-based independent nutritionist John Sanders.

"Be ready to respond quickly and consider alternatives if compound prices take a hike. But base decisions on the true cost in terms of dry matter.

"Cost per unit of dry matter is key. Its what every producer must use as the basis of all feed rationing this winter." He also advises keep abreast of the market for alternative feeds

He adds that a shortage of brewers grains – believed to have been affected by the increased consumption of imported bottled beer – will be reflected in prices.

"There is a real shortage of brewers grains. As the price of an alternative feed, like brewers grains, gets closer to its dry matter value – in this case 24% – back off its not economical," he says.

Bread is still a popular ingredient in dairy cow diets and can be successfully ensiled. "Waste bread is certainly worth getting hold of now and ensiling. When ensiled properly, it will ferment and provide a high starch and high sugar dietary constituent for winter rations. Some producers feed up to 5kg a cow a day.

"A shortage of milk will see dairy farmers chasing more litres and theyll be given every encouragement to do so by the big compound feed companies.

"Cereal prices are heading upwards and compounds will do the same. My advice is to stop and think about the cost of producing those extra litres," says Mr Sanders.

When to start forward buying straights and by-products is always a dilema. But he is concerned producers may get stitched up on compounds if they become totally pre-occupied with maximising yield.

An improved milk price and the green light to go all out for maximum production may cloud the real issue of cost a litre, says Mr Sanders. But the real priority should be making the highest margin by carefully managing feed costs.

"Producers have some lost ground to make up and alternative feeds could achieve useful savings on cow diets."

But the foot-and-mouth crisis has already had an indirect impact on several sources of starch by-products. Legislation imposed on companies producing foods containing meat as part of their range has been in force for some time: Meat processing had to be undertaken in a separate part of the factory, so any waste food from non-meat processing areas could be used for animal feed. But new legislation has brought an end to this practice even though the meat and pastry processing remains completely separate.

"All waste products from a factory which uses meat must now be taken to a land-fill site. That could cut supplies of things like bread, biscuit and pastry by about 25%. These are used widely in blended feeds, so those prices could also be affected.

"Good feeds from these food manufacturers have been used in ruminant diets made by reputable companies. The shortage could push up the price of some by-products, but producers should not panic.

"In livestock areas hit by F&M the anticipated incresase in raw material prices could be counter balanced by the reduced demand from fewer stock." &#42