Home News Mixing own livestock feed 'comes with hefty price tag'

Mixing own livestock feed ‘comes with hefty price tag’

In a desperate attempt to bypass sky-high feed prices, more and more pig farmers are mixing their own food. Experts warn, however, that this could come with a hefty price tag

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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.

ALSO READ: 10 tips to cut down on animal feed costs

Dr Cilliers Louw is SAPPO's Western Cape liaison for veterinary services. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Dr Cilliers Louw is SAPPO’s Western Cape liaison for veterinary services. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

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.

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“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.

Thembelihle Ngiba, business development manager at the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO). Photo: Supplied/SAPPO

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.”

ALSO READ: Western Cape bans sale of live pigs in Mfuleni

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 and a sheep farmer from Vrede in the Free State. Photo: Facebook
Manie Wessels, co-founder of Mamre Consult and a sheep farmer from Vrede in the Free State. Photo: Facebook

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.”

ALSO READ: Rosy outlook for summer and winter crop production

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.

Feed mixers in South Africa are generally pricey, and not easily affordable for small-scale farmers. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Feed mixers in South Africa are generally pricey, and not easily affordable for small-scale farmers. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

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. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Dr Josef van Wyngaard, a ruminant nutrition and health expert from Voermol Feeds. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

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.

ALSO READ: Poultry industry curbed by soybean prices
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Duncan Masiwa
Duncan Masiwa
DUNCAN MASIWA is a budding journalist with a passion for telling great agricultural stories. He hails from Macassar, close to Somerset West in the Western Cape, where he first started writing for the Helderberg Gazette community newspaper. Besides making a name for himself as a columnist, he is also an avid poet who has shared stages with artists like Mahalia Buchanan, Charisma Hanekam, Jesse Jordan and Motlatsi Mofatse.
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