The feed phosphate supply crisis that has severely affected the European industry since December last year continues to have a major impact upon poultry feed manufacturers and poultry producers. This is both in terms of ability to supply stock with required levels of phosphorus and the cost of phosphorus in the diet.
The background to the shortage
A combination of increased global demand for cereal and protein crops (for both human and livestock consumption), poor global harvests, and the emergence of the bio-fuels industries has given rise to global shortages and increased prices for these crops.
In response to these higher prices, there have been increased global plantings of cereals and plant protein crops. This in turn has dramatically increased the demand for phosphorus containing fertilisers. Feed phosphates and phosphorous containing fertilisers are both produced from a common raw material in phosphoric acid, increased fertiliser production has resulted in a shortage of availability of phosphoric acid for feed phosphate production.
To add to these problems, more recently the availability of phosphates has been hit by the earthquakes in China affecting an area of significant production of DiCalcium Phosphate. The problems of availability and higher cost of phosphate remain with us, and will continue to do so.
Implications for poultry production
The two key affects on poultry production are:
- Difficulty in meeting phosphorus requirements of the birds
- Further increased cost of feed
This puts further pressure on feed formulation, as nutritionists look to maximise stocks of feed phosphates and keep formulation cost down. Nutritionists will attempt to conserve feed phosphate stocks by either:
- reducing specification levels in feeds
- or using alternative ingredient inclusion strategies
Both theses strategies have potential implications for production and it is worth considering how best it should be managed.
Reducing specification levels in feed
Any reduction in phosphorus below recommended levels must be very carefully managed. If reducing phosphorus in the feed, the following points should be considered:
- Phosphorous specification levels in broiler Starter feeds should be left unchanged. Phosphorus levels are crucial for skeletal development and growth, and any changes in specifications at this time can have serious implications for welfare and performance as the birds develop.
- If phosphorus levels of broiler feeds do need to be reduced then reductions should be made in the final withdrawal feed first, before considering reducing levels in the finisher and then the grower. This approach involves least risk of negatively affecting bird welfare and performance, and will result in a significant reduction of added phosphate usage due to the increasing feed intake of broilers during the latter phase of the grow-out cycle will result in significant reduction of added phosphate usage.
- Phosphorus specification levels should not be reduced to below the minimum level required; studies have shown broilers show deficiency symptoms at levels of available P of 0.29% of total diet (as is). However consideration should also be given to other factors influencing phosphorous requirements e.g. disease exposure, toxin levels in feed, susceptibility to rickets.
- Any reduction in phosphorus levels will increase the importance of the calcium:available phosphorus ratio being at the correct level (2:1). Therefore, calcium levels must be reduced to maintain the appropriate ratio. The specification levels of other nutrients which effect bone mineralization, such as calcium, magnesium, manganese and vitamin D3, must also be considered. Analogue forms of Vit D3 may provide a more potent form of Vit D3. More recent work has indicated some omega 3 fatty acids improve bone mineralization and growth.
- Matrix values for raw materials should be reviewed and adjusted appropriately according to quality control results.
- Formulating to digestible phosphorus can potentially reduce the volume of mineral phosphate required in the feed whilst maintaining correct formulation. However, anyone considering moving to this system from an available system must take great care that the raw material matrix is amended appropriately.
- Breeder formulation specifications should only be considered if it becomes absolutely necessary. Low phosphorus levels will compromise egg shell quality, hatchability and progeny viability.
Alternative ingredient inclusion strategies
The feed phosphate supply problem increases the benefit and value of phytase enzymes. If using phytase enzymes the following points should be considered:
- If phytase is being added to diets that have not previously included phytase, the enzyme supplier should be consulted to ensure the raw material matrix and feed specification values for minerals (phosphorus, calcium, sodium and other minerals) are changed correctly for the enzyme being used.
- Feeds already containing phytase may benefit from an increased dosage of the enzyme. This benefit may be both in terms of phosphate sparing and cost saving. If considering this option, it becomes even more important that the enzyme supplier/premix supplier should be consulted as to the best way to achieve maximum benefit, and the mineral content of the feed must be kept in balance.
- When using phytase in breeder feeds, it is particularly important that the raw material matrix and specification levels are managed to keep mineral content balanced - particularly the calcium to phosphorus ratio.
- With more reliance on phytase as the ‘source' of phosphorus in the feed consideration should be given to product stability.
- When using phytase attention must be given to accuracy of inclusion into feed, and there must be assurance that the phytase is blended into the feed in a homogenous manner.
- The phosphorus and calcium contribution may not be the same as for the more traditional phosphates normally used, both in terms of absolute level and availability to the bird.
- The mineral content of the material should be fully understood (eg. sodium level) and entered correctly onto the raw material matrix with appropriate availability figures to allow the correct evaluation of the value of the material.
- Ensure the quality of individual batches, to be certain that the correct level of minerals will be supplied to the birds.
- Watch out for heavy metal contamination.
- Proactive approach
- Whether a strategy of reduced feed specification or a strategy of alternative ingredient inclusion is implemented it is important to have a proactive approach to bird management.
- Implement a monitoring scheme by health experts/production staff monitoring young broilers for bone formation and signs of mineral deficiency related complications;
- Monitor egg shell quality and productivity;
- Ensure feed intake is optimised so mineral intake is adequate.
The current position on supply and cost of phosphates is a further challenge to feed formulation and production of poultry.
It is extremely important that the problem is managed in the best way possible:
- Carefully manage reductions in phosphorus level in broiler feeds: maintaining levels in starter feeds and focussing on reducing phosphorous levels in the withdrawal and finisher feeds.
- Exercise extreme caution with broiler breeder feeds, both in rear and production, to avoid production problems.
- Maintain calcium:available phosphorus ratios.
- Review mineral values on the raw material matrix.
- Take advice on phytase use from the manufacturer.
- Consider increased use of phytase, using suitable advice.
- Be cautious in the use of alternative phosphate materials - monitor quality.
- Proactive approach: monitor and assess bird condition and egg shell quality.