Farming

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Nonsense to hide true feed energy values

Farmers are being constantly urged to approach their enterprises in a more business-like manner.

They are encouraged to measure and assess everything that they use and produce in an effort to benchmark themselves against the very best in the industry.

Isn't it extraordinary then that there is still such a reluctance by our feed sector to be upfront with the most basic of information on the €1.25bn of feed that is bought by farmers every year.

Despite many requests over the years for the actual breakdown of ingredients going into rations, farmers have been fobbed off with a list of ingredients, ranked according to their inclusion rates.

In other words, the feed industry is saying that it'll tell us what the ingredients are, but not the exact percentages of each ingredient. This half-hearted measure was only put in place in the wake of the BSE debacle in the 1990s, when EU rules forced compounders to at least declare what they were putting into rations.

Feed companies claim they can't outline the exact make-up of their rations because of a need to protect the 'intellectual property' of their formulations. But this is nonsense.

Proper

Farmers need a complete outline of a feed's ingredients to make a proper stab at estimating the actual energy content of the feed.

At the moment, feed companies seem content to only declare the protein content of the feed that they sell. Why not declare the energy content too? Surely this is a better measure of the feed's actual value.

You may hear some feed reps tell you that there is no consistent measure of energy values -- one kilo of feed at the top of the bin might analyse differently from a kilo at the bottom. But surely the same could be said for the protein content of the same mix.

In addition, there appears to be some mixed views throughout the industry on whether the metabolisable energy (ME) or utilisable feed for lactating cows (UFL) should be used. Some maintain the latter is a more accurate estimate of the actual energy that the animal will be able to harness from the feed; others argue that the ME system is the globally accepted version.

Currently, we have an ad-hoc system where a minority of farmers appear to be able to extract the relevant details from their feed supplier on a feed's energy value.

However, the vast majority are left to wonder just how much ash and other useless fillers they have paid for. It's not good enough.

Indo Farming