Experts have warned small-scale pig farmers to be cautious of mixing their own feed in a desperate attempt to find an alternative for sky-high feed prices.
While the pig industry had high hopes that prices carried over from 2020 would only be temporary, it has not been the case.
Some now say the current maize price could hold high until mid-year, or at least until there is clarity on the size of the US maize crop.
Up-and-coming farmers in various provinces are suffering as a result of this, confirm development managers from the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO).
SAPPO’s assistant business development manager, Rolivhuwa Mavhetha, tell Food For Mzansi that farmers in Limpopo are particularly battling, and have adopted an alternative approach.
“They are buying maize and soya from small dealers these days and mix their own feed. The dealers supply the correct formula for home mixing,” he says.
According to Dr Cilliers Louw, SAPPO’s veterinary liaison officer for the Western Cape, farmers in this province have also started using alternatives for commercial feed products.
This, he says, is a positive development because “small farmers and commercial producers are starting to work together more closely.”
Meanwhile Eastern Cape farmers are at their wits’ end, says SAPPO’s Thembelihle Ngiba. She oversees small-scale pig farmers in this province. “They are all suffering because of high feed prices. Home-mixing does not really provide a solution for them.”
SAPPO confirms that pig farmers in parts of North West and the Northern Cape are experiencing similar dilemmas.
The real deal with feed prices
Manie Wessels, co-founder of Mamre Consult, believes the actual reason for feed price increases is because maize producers are not putting their crops on the market.
Instead, they are storing it in silos. This ends up choking up-and-coming farmers.
“Currently, we are in very good harvesting year, but the feed prices remain high. Normally, in a year such as this when there are big harvests, feed prices would drop, but not this time.
“Instead of putting it on the market and paying tax on the money, farmers are keeping their maize in silos. They are waiting for the market price to increase. Others use the maize themselves in their own animal feed mixture.”
Farmers, careful with self-mixing
Wessels cautions those who are self-mixing to be very careful and to consider all costs involved in mixing feed themselves.
“Farmers should take all costs such as electricity, the cost of the feed mixer and labour into account. Many don’t, and think that their costs are lower when self-mixing really isn’t (always cheaper). They don’t calculate the entire cost implications,” he says.
Another problem this well-known sheep farmer from the Vrede district in the Free State points out is a lack of expertise. Farmers often use recipes that are either outdated, or uses old products.
This, Wessels warns, is very dangerous.
Through trying to beat feed prices, some farmers run the risk of not getting the growth they want on their animals. He recommends that farmers, instead, always use new technologies.
Feed mixers in Mzansi are generally pricey and if farmers decide to do this, Wessels says they should be able to mix large volumes.
“If you farm too small, you pay almost more for the raw materials than what you would pay for a finished product. So, it might be better for a small group of farmers to make feed purchases together,” he explains.
Irregular animal performance
Dr Josef van Wyngaard, a ruminant nutrition and health expert from Voermol Feeds, agrees that mixing your own feed comes with big risks.
“Mixing facilities should be of good quality to ensure thorough dispersion of micro and macro components. This will then ensure a homogeneous feed for homogeneous animal production,” he says.
Feed should be thoroughly mixed, and each bite taken by the animal must be representative of the original formula.
Often when feed is not mixed thoroughly the nutrient composition of each bite is different. This, Van Wyngaard says, yields irregular animal performance across a group even though they get the same feed.
He adds that it is also important that ration still be formulated by professional animal scientists.