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The Benefits of Pelleting Feed and Related Diet Considerations

Close-up of large metal poultry feeder.

The benefits of pelleting feed have been an area of interest for decades; however, recent research suggests that the extent of the performance improvements may depend on other diet characteristics. With feed estimated to be around 70% of production costs for poultry and swine producers, the benefit-cost ratio is an important factor when determining what form the diet should take.

Pellet Quality

Pelleting can improve production performance, although research has found that this can depend on the quality of the pellet. Positive production effects can be limited if the pellet quality is poor and there is a large percentage of fines in the feed. In a broiler study,1 an improvement in feed intake, live weight gain, feed conversion rate (FCR) and carcass weight was observed as the percent of pellets in the feed increased. A model based on this research indicated a 0.4-point increase in FCR, a 10 g carcass-weight increase and a 4 g breast-weight improvement for every 10% increase in intact pellets in the feed.

Pellet and Nutrient Density Relationship

The extent of production improvements from pelleting may also depend on the diet formulation. Recent research suggests that the level of nutrient density may determine how beneficial pelleting really is. In two broiler studies,2,3 five diet nutrient density levels were compared in either mash or pellet form. As expected, broilers fed pelleted diets had better performance than mash-fed birds at all nutrient density levels. However, the pellet benefits were greater at the lowest nutrient density and positive performance responses to pelleting decreased as nutrient density increased. Therefore, the nutrient density of diets may be an important consideration during diet formulation to ensure that the extra expense of pelleting delivers the expected increase in performance.

Mitigating Mycotoxin Effects

Another potential benefit of pelleting feed is the reduction of negative performance effects observed when feed is contaminated with the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON). In two swine studies,4,5 pelleting DON-contaminated diets improved average daily gain and gain to feed (G:F), ameliorating the reduction in performance caused by DON-contaminated feed. The concentration of DON in the diet was not altered by pelleting, but the performance benefits of pelleting were able to mitigate the DON-related production losses. Numerically, the increase in daily gain due to pelleting was greater in the DON-contaminated feed than the control feed. It is not clear however, if negative effects from contamination by other mycotoxins could also be abated by pelleting, so using a natural mycotoxin control product is recommended. To identify if feed is contaminated with mycotoxins and at what concentration, BioInsights Mycotoxin Diagnostic Services, offered by Amlan International, can test feed on-site and provide an accurate quantitative result within 10 minutes.

Other Benefits of Pelleting

Pelleting can increase palatability by masking unpleasant ingredient tastes and reducing ingredient sorting. Production efficiencies also improve as less feed is wasted and time allocated to eating is reduced, which allows more energy to be dedicated to growth.

Pelleting feed has multiple logistic benefits including improving feed flow through bins and less space required for storage. Ingredient separation during storage and transport and dust production are also reduced — depending on the quality of the pellet. Low-quality pellets that have a large percentage of fines may still have these issues.

Pelleting feed has many potential advantages, as long as all components of the diet formulation are considered, pellet quality is maximized and the pellets, like all feed, are manufactured safely following recommended guidelines.

References

  1. Lilly K, Gehring C, Beaman K, Turk P, Sperow M, Moritz J. Examining the relationships between pellet quality, broiler performance, and bird sex. J Appl Poult Res. 2011;20:231–239. https://doi.org/10.3382/japr.2009-00138
  2. Abdollahia M, Zaefariana F, Ravindrana V, Selleb P. The interactive influence of dietary nutrient density and feed form on the performance of broiler chickens. Anim Feed Sci Technol. 2018;239:33–43.
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2018.03.005
  3. Hamungalu O, Zaefarian F, Abdollahi M, Ravindran V. Performance response of broilers to feeding pelleted diets is influenced by dietary nutrient density. Anim Feed Sci Technol. 2020;268:114613
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2020.114613
  4. Frobose H, Fruge E, Tokach M, Hansen E, DeRouchey J, Dritz S, Goodband R, Nelssen J. The effects of deoxynivalenol-contaminated corn dried distillers grains with solubles in nursery pig diets and potential for mitigation by commercially available feed additives. J Anim Sci. 2015;93:1074–1088. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2013-6883
  5. Frobose H, Fruge E, Tokach M, Hansen E, DeRouchey J, Dritz S, Goodband R, Nelssen J. The influence of pelleting and supplementing sodium metabisulfite (Na2S2O5) on nursery pigs fed diets contaminated with deoxynivalenol. Anim Feed Sci Technol. 2015;210:152–164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2015.09.020

Manufacturing Safe Feed for Livestock and Poultry

Maintaining high-quality standards during livestock and poultry feed manufacturing is not only important to protect the health of the herd or flock, but as the end consumer, the health of people as well. The productivity of livestock and poultry can also be reduced if feed is not manufactured or stored correctly and becomes contaminated with pathogens, biotoxins or chemical residues.

Feed Manufacturing Guidelines

In many countries, feed production has strict compliance guidelines that cover manufacturing as well as workplace safety, environmental, transportation and trade regulations. The feed production regulations provide guidance on various issues including feeding animal protein to animals, the use of antibiotics in feed for non-medicative purposes and feed manufacturing standards. For countries without feed production regulations, the FAO Global Feed Safety Platform provides many useful resources on how to manufacture safe and sustainable feed.

Best Practices for Safe Feed

Having trained and competent personnel is one of the first steps in ensuring feed is manufactured safely and correctly. Training programs should include continuing education opportunities that also keep up to date with the latest recommendations and regulations for feed manufacturing. Some training programs are available online, such as those offered by the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA). Examples of the topics included in the NGFA training modules include manufacturing processes, pelleting, feed sampling and shipping.

Safe feed starts with the raw ingredients, so these should be purchased from reputable suppliers that have proven safety and quality records. Each load of ingredients should be inspected for integrity, quality and evidence of contaminants. During processing, quality control checks should be in place to ensure a consistent and safe final product. This includes analyzing mixed feed for the correct concentrations of nutrients (particularly minerals) and screening for toxins. Equipment used in the mill should also be checked to ensure it’s working correctly. The finished feed should be stored in an area the prevents contamination and lessens the risk of deterioration. Collecting feed samples (from raw and finished products) and retaining them short-term can help with traceability if there is an issue with the feed.

Feed Contamination Issues

If feed is not handled, stored and transported correctly, any pathogens in the feed could be passed onto livestock and poultry (and people in some cases). Pelleted feed that has undergone heat treatment with steam can reduce some of the bacterial load, but heat treatment does not make the feed sterile.

Common pathogens and diseases that can be transmitted through feed include:

  • E. coli O157:H7
  • Salmonella
  • Listeria
  • Campylobacter
  • Mycotoxins (toxins from fungi)  

Mycotoxin Issues and Solutions

If environmental conditions are favorable, mycotoxins can contaminate feed either before harvest or during processing and storage. Mycotoxins are produced by a variety of fungi species, all of which proliferate under different ambient temperature and moisture or humidity conditions.

Raw ingredients and finished feed can be tested to determine if it is contaminated with mycotoxins and at what concentration. BioInsights Mycotoxin Diagnostic Services, offered by Amlan International, can test feed on-site and provide an accurate quantitative result within 10 minutes. If the test identifies mycotoxins in the feed, Amlan International’s dose calculator can be used to determine the optimal dose of adsorbents, such as Calibrin®-Z, to use in the feed.

Manufacturing safe feed is not only important for the health of livestock and poultry but also productivity. There are many procedures that can be employed to reduce the risk of feed contamination during manufacture. However, if contamination does occur, using products like Calibrin-Z can help reduce the effects of biotoxins on the health and productivity of livestock and poultry. Calibrin-Z can also be used prophylactically to help defend the flock or herd from disease outbreaks.

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