Alternative Feed Ingredients: Use and evaluation 2024

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The major cost of animal production is in the feeding. Feed accounts for about 70% of the cost of animal production.

A lot of work has been done and is still done on a regular basis to reduce feed cost hence the need for farmers and feed millers to be aware and well informed of the pricing and value of various feed materials in the market in order to harness the buying power of these materials and also consider any alternative feed material in the market.

What then is alternative material? There is no stereotyped definition of an alternative feed ingredient because what is considered as an alternative in a certain area or location may be normal in another area or location. Generally, alternative feed materials are those feed ingredients that are not normally used in feed formulation on a regular basis.

They have variable nutrient composition but their inclusion levels are not usually well defined or unknown. When choosing alternative feed material, it is important to consider some points.

Alternative Feed Ingredients

Composition and Quality

Normally the nutrient compositions of most feed materials are listed in the nutrient composition tables or in scientific research papers. The alternate feed material should be subjected to laboratory analysis which should include the moisture, protein, ash and fat content.

An analysis of macro minerals and amino acid content can also provide further indication of the product quality.

Nutrient Digestibility/Availability

This refers to the extent to which an animal can digest and absorb the nutrient within the feedstuff. Many ingredients may have a considerable amount of nutrient but they may not be available to the animal for growth or production.

Example, feather meal is very rich in protein but has low available amino acids. It is important to add that enzymes and phytogenic feed additives can improve the digestibility of certain nutrients in alternative feed materials.

Anti-Nutritional Factor

Certain naturally inherent components that develop within certain raw materials may interfere with the digestion, metabolism or health of animals. Eg trypsin inhibitor, mycotoxins, etc. these ant nutritional factors can be determined through analysis before making decision on their usage and inclusion level.


This is the ability of the animal to readily consume the feed material of consideration. Some ingredients may have bitter component or have off flavor thereby limiting their intake when included in the diet of the animal.

Phytogenic feed additives can improve palatability and increase feed intake.

Effect on Meat, Egg or Milk Quality

The feed material should not have any negative effect in the final product. Example, high amount of fish meal is known to cause off flavours to milk, egg and meat products and therefore their use is to be limited in feed formulas. It is advisable to limit potentially problematic raw materials to low inclusion levels or only allow certain ingredients at specific production stages such to not impact the final product.

Some other points to consider in choosing alternative feed materials include;

Relative value
Suitability or form of material
Free of hazards
Availability and consistency of supply
Inclusion rate
Impact on pellet quality and final feed
Cost Alternative feed materials should always be considered in feed formulations.

When such materials can be characterized and correctly incorporated into animal diets with no performance impairment, they can be an important method or way to reduce feed and production costs.

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At Sabiagrik, we're dedicated to bridging the knowledge gap in the agriculture sector, helping enthusiasts transform their passion into thriving businesses.