Grain forecasts are predicting that prices will not be decreasing soon. In fact, they might increase in the fall depending on the success of the 2021 planting season and harvest season. Also, we need to factor in the Chinese pork market and grain demands. Our situation could have been worse if Chinese producers had successfully repopulated after Covid-19 and African Swine Fever issues.
A Second round of African Swine Fever in early 2021 killed millions of pigs just as China attempted to get back to normal production. Large volumes of corn and soybean meal were exported from the United States to feed those pigs. It would be cost prohibitive and counterproductive to ship it back. However, it does mean that exports will slow down, leaving more for domestic use. This is more of a consolation prize since prices are still in the grain farmer’s favor. We are left looking for alternative solutions for livestock feed. How can we do the best with what we have?
Feed technologies have made vast improvements over the last 30 years. Phytase and distillers are prime examples of these advances. Both significantly reduce the price of feed and improve the nutritive quality of the complete diet. Recently, we have been evaluating similar ingredients to find the best options. One product, Elevate, demonstrated a consistent reduction of 30 pounds of soybean meal per ton without any changes in performance. This was achieved purely by improving the protein quality. Better quality protein means we do not need to feed as much to get the same results.
How do the economics look? There was an average savings of $7/ton by reducing soybean meal inclusion. The addition of Elevate adds $1.5/ton. Knowing these pigs eat 665 lbs. of feed from 50 to 300 lbs. of body weight, feed cost was reduced by $1.66/pig. It is important to note that not all production systems will see the same results. A conservative estimate would be to expect $1/pig savings.
The evaluation information might have been gathered using swine; however, the best advantage to a product like this is that all livestock can benefit. Turkeys and chickens require the use of very high protein diets throughout their entire growing period. Creep feed for beef and dairy could reduce protein levels to help with scouring during the transition at weaning. This is not only a tool for lowering diet cost. Elevate can also be used as a solution in times where reducing protein levels can be beneficial in general. While new feed ingredients come and go, considering the current state of commodity prices, this could be one ingredient that sticks around.