Chickens feeding around a red bucket in a hen enclosure
Chickens feeding

Case Study: Feeding reared animals

Feeding is a fundamental part of farm management. It is an important element of farming costs and it makes a difference to the quality and quantity of animal production.

The first of the five freedoms of animals stated in Farm Animal Welfare Council (1965) is Freedom from Hunger and Thirst: by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor. Thus animal feeding is fully concerned with animal welfare.

You can review the 5 freedoms at Step 2.1.

Feeding reared animals starts with a feed ration calculation

This is a specialised job, farmers entrust it to the nutritionist who establishes the feed ration following the synthesis of careful and in-depth work:

  • Animal characterisation: age; breed or species; weight gain rate; production phase; yield milk production level; ingestion capability; genetic level

  • Season and climate characterisation: humidity, temperature, ventilation and cooling management forage characterisation: result of forage analyses evidencing nutritional levels

  • Establishing animal needs: energy, protein, fats, micro elements (vitamins, iron, iodine, etc.) and macro elements (calcium, phosphorus, etc.)

  • On-farm forage availability: amount and quality of on-farm production of forages; and forage market prices analysis: best cost-benefits

  • Feed ration calculation: the nutritionist calculates the ration composition using on-farm gathered information. This is important to merge different amounts of zootechnical foods in order to match the animals needs. The calculation of the ration composition is carried out through specific software

  • Regular check of production levels and animal health: the nutritionist routinely verifies the production level (milk yield and quality, weight gain rate); metabolic disease incidence; and animal fatness in order to eventually modify food proportion in the ration.

Feeding reared animals means cultivating, purchasing and storing zootechnical foods

This is a quite delicate phase of the production process. Forage must be healthy for animals therefore great attention must be placed on this phase. There are many legal obligations concerning food production and conservation. The responsible authority ensures that farmers comply to regulations through periodic inspections. These inspections verify if the farmer has taken all preventative actions required by law; they check all on-farm registers; and sample forage stocks for analyses. The risk is high both for animals and for human health.

Feeding reared animals is a farmer’s job

The farmer makes the feed ration following a nutritionist’s recipe; regularly fills the trough; conducts daily checks for food remains; and takes care of hygiene.

Feeding reared animals to keep them in wellness

A balanced diet is a requirement for animal welfare and health. Over feeding is as dangerous as under feeding. Adopting “precision feeding” management, by advanced on-farm technology, helps in eliminating the excess of nutrients even considering individual needs. It allows “clinical feeding” in order to prevent and solve some clinical problems, without the need for drug treatments, before they become severe diseases. As a result, this can help reduce the costs to the breeder as there is less costs for forage purchasing and medical therapies.

Feeding reared animals reducing environmental impact

Precision feeding can also help in reduce the environmental impact from nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in manure. Using food industry waste to feed animals by including by-products in diets is an important step towards circular economy: re-use of wastes and less water consuming to grow crops.

Please think about and discuss the following:

  • Have you ever realized the importance of feed in reared animals?

  • In the discussion area please provide 4 key words that focus on the problem.

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This article is from the free online course:

Farm to Fork: Sustainable Food Production in a Changing Environment

EIT Food