Surviving in animal ag these days is no easy proposition.
Feed costs can amplify even the slightest of mistakes into a farm-loss situation. University of Illinois' Hans Stein detailed a number of tips for reducing swine feed costs at the 2013 Pork Expo in Peoria.
"First, you have to realize there are no silver bullets," Stein explains.
There are two ways to reduce feed costs: reduce the amount of feed used or use alternative ingredients to create a lower-cost feed. Stein notes most operations waste 2% to 12% of total feed.
In reducing the amount of feed, most immediately begin talking improved conversion rates. However, mechanical loss can account for quite a bit of waste. Stein urges farmers to take a hard look at their feeders' efficiency.
"Feeders are one of the biggest places you can reduce feed costs," he notes.
Improperly adjusted feeders can result in a 5% to 10% feed loss through the slats. Another big problem is too much feed in the pan. Stein says the goal is not to have a 100% covered feed pan. Instead, folks should aim for 30% to 40% pan coverage.
These adjustments are some of the simplest ways to reduce feed costs. Stein recommends inspections to confirm feeding equipment is properly adjusted.
Another way to reduce the amount of feed is to improve feed conversion rates.
For some time, the industry has known reducing particle size can lead to increased FCRs. Stein notes many are now utilizing feeds with particle size around 400 microns. As particle size drops, FCR increases. However, the risk for ulcers also increases.