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Working together for a low-carbon pig and poultry industry

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ABN are Britain's leading manufacturer of pig and poultry feeds. At ABN, we apply a partnership approach to driving productivity in the sector. By focusing on efficiency, profitability, and performance as well as reducing our carbon footprint, we can support the future of our industry.

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Feeding pigs and chickens in a new low-carbon world, meeting sustainability demands and net zero goals, while maintaining performance and margins, will require a focus on feed efficiency and productivity, according to Britain’s leading manufacturer of pig and poultry compound feed, ABN.

With soaring input costs, pig and poultry producers are facing a volatile market, with the added challenges of avian influenza and pig processing shortfalls.

Productivity, precision feeding and farm efficiencies will be the driving forces for the future success of the sector.

“Input costs across all species are currently incredibly high, making performance optimisation more important than ever,” says Danny Johnson, commercial director at ABN.

“If you can make small gains, it has a big impact. Managing performance and efficiencies has real value in the current environment,” he adds.

Optimal nutrition for economic and environmental sustainability

Pig producers are constantly striving to improve efficiencies, and soaring feed costs will clearly focus minds even more closely on optimising production and use of inputs, according to Dr Steve Jagger, senior pig nutritionist at ABN.

Pigs

© ABN

“Providing the most cost-effective nutrient level at each stage of growth improves the efficiency of feed use and reduces environmental emissions,” he explains.

“Increasing the number of diets used in the growing stage provides the nutrients required for body tissue growth more precisely, which has potential to improve financial returns.”

Dr Tegan Whiting, ABN pig nutritionist adds, “Feeding a group of pigs is challenging due to the natural variation of pig weight within a group, hence, nutrient requirements are inevitably over or under supplied at some point in a pig’s life cycle. If we feed excess protein, for example, than the pig requires, it will not be utilised, instead being lost into the environment.

“We have found that by feeding the right level of nutrients at each stage of growth, we will achieve optimal efficiency,” she says. Dr Jagger believes tailoring rations can yield significant savings.

Rather than feeding a single or dual phase diet, he recommends a three-phase diet to more accurately meet the growing pig’s needs and reduce the risk of under- or over-feeding.

He also suggests grouping stock according to sex and size, to avoid wide variability within different pens.

Dr Jagger adds, “There is a direct link between efficiencies and nutrient use; optimising nutrient use while maintaining good gut health reduces both environmental emissions and costs of production. It’s a win-win situation.”

Cost challenges in the poultry sector

Brian Kenyon, ABN’s senior nutrition manager says the current cost challenges are also underlining the importance of improving feed efficiency and productivity in the poultry sector, and this will be even more prevalent if the industry is to meet sustainability requirements and net zero goals.

Broiler

© ABN

Adjusting poultry diets to meet sustainability requirements, and specifically reducing the reliance on soya, will bring significant challenges and will require realistic timeframes.

Mr Kenyon insisted he has confidence in the industry’s ability to adapt and improve its sustainability credentials, but it will require a joined-up approach to overcome the challenges ahead.

“Feed today is very much valued on a ‘least cost’ basis, but is moving towards a greater emphasis on a ‘least carbon’ basis. However, these two factors frequently oppose each other,” he explains.

“Reducing the carbon value of the feed, or more precisely soya, increases today’s feed prices and therefore the cost of production, but by looking at efficiency and productivity, alongside sustainability, we can help bring a cost balance for the producer,” he adds.

Soya meal itself can be replaced by a number of existing materials such as beans and rapeseed, though time and effort will be needed to develop the right enzymes and processing techniques required to maximise their effectiveness.

Alternative products such as insect meal, single-celled organisms and co-products of the food and energy industry are either not widely available or not ready for mass production.

“While we are constantly evaluating our product range and refining it to meet today’s demands, we are at the same time looking at potential alternative raw materials to see how they could fit into a productive feeding programme,” says Mr Kenyon.

He calls for a realistic transition action plan, recognising that a complete move away from soya cannot happen overnight, and a pragmatic approach would be to work towards a five-year roadmap to ensure availability of high-performing and sustainable alternatives.

“An industry-managed transition to reducing soya, with an extended timeframe, would allow a secure supply chain to be set up, with the arable sector able to scale up the right crops, preventing demand from outstripping the UK’s cropping cycles and further exacerbating price rises,” says Mr Kenyon.

“I am confident that as an industry we can overcome the challenges and improve the sustainability credentials of poultry production in the UK, but it will require a joined-up approach across the entire supply chain,” he concludes.

Pig and Poultry Fair 2022

Join Brian Kenyon and Dr Steve Jagger as they present during the Forums at this year’s Pig & Poultry Fair at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire on May 10 and 11th. Danny Johnson will also chair the Poultry Meat Outlook session and Dr Tegan Whiting will chair the pig nutrition session.