Importance and challenges of testing animal feeds

Saturday June 9 2018

Calves feed in a farm.

Calves feed in a farm. When making own feed, knowledge in ingredients through testing is vital as it makes farmers have an an idea of the nutrients requirements. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

By CAROLINE WAMBUI
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In livestock production, feeding is the largest expense and one that has a direct impact on the growth rate, production capacity and health status of the animal.

Feed production has become competitive and some farmers have turned to making own food for their animals, partly relying on commercially manufactured feed.

But while making the feed, a problem emerges as farmers cannot clearly determine the nutritional composition because they cannot access laboratories.

Knowledge in ingredients through testing is vital as it makes farmers have an an idea of the nutrients requirements.

Ingredients need to be analysed critically on their nutritive value before they are incorporated into the diet.

Nutritional value in feed varies from source to source, season to season and batch to batch.

“A slight variation in the quality of feed ingredients affects animal performance. While underformulation reduces the animal performance, over formulation deviates from quality with losses in revenue,” says Mr Paul Mambo, a consultant.
A lab analysis is thus a key influential aspect of quality control.

The analysed raw materials help the feed manufacturer in determining the nutrition value of feed ingredients while avoiding contaminants and detecting adulterants.

While some substances or contaminants are characteristically present in feed ingredients, others are acquired during handling, processing or storage, thus making feed testing invaluable.

“Some agents adulterate feed ingredients for economic benefit. Adulterants and contaminants seriously affect the feed quality and animal productivity especially when present in more than prescribed quantities,” Mr Mambo says.

When it comes to the commercially made feeds, it is difficult to have a general assumption on the published values as a wide variability is observed in the nutrient content of raw material.

The establishment of a testing laboratory can enhance accurate feed analysis and promote feed quality.