Dr. Kevin Herkelman, Nutrition Services Manager
Demand for antibiotic-free (ABF) eggs, poultry meat, and pork continues to increase in the United States. This increased demand consequently increases the demand for animals produced in ABF production systems. The most common question related to ABF feed programs is how to effectively replace antibiotics and maintain animal performance and health. Direct-fed microbials, prebiotics, essential oils, and enzymes are just a few of the products available to help producers meet production and profitability goals without antibiotics.
Direct-fed microbials (DFM’s) or probiotics are products containing live, viable microorganisms, including bacteria or yeast. DFM’s improve animal performance by modifying the microorganisms in the intestinal tract. In order to achieve improved performance, the DFM’s must be able to colonize the intestinal tract in sufficient quantities to compete with potential pathogenic or “bad” microorganisms. Since DFM’s are live organisms, they must be protected from steam and pressure when added to feed manufactured as pellets. This is achieved by spraying the DFM product on pellets as a liquid, post-pelleting, or using a DFM product protected with a fat-based coating.
Prebiotics are compounds promoting the growth of gut bacteria but are not living organisms.
Since prebiotics are not live organisms, they are less sensitive to potential destruction by steam and moisture in the pelleting process. There are two common types of prebiotics used in poultry and swine feeds, oligosaccharides and beta-glucans.
Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates with 3 to 10 simple sugars linked together. These carbohydrates are not well digested by the animal as an energy source. However, they can be excellent substrate and energy source for “good” bacteria (i.e. Lactobacillus spp.). Mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) containing products are the most common type of oligosaccharide used in poultry and swine feeds. Beta-glucans are designed to enhance the immune system by binding to and activating macrophages. Macrophages are cells which engulf and the digest pathogens or other cellular debris.
Essential oils are concentrated products containing volatile aromatic compounds derived from plants. Historically, essential oils have been used in human nutrition as flavors and/or preservatives. Essential oils typically have a strong odor and include oregano, cinnamaldehyde (cinnamon), carvacrol (oregano or thyme), thymol (thyme), and limonene (lemon rind or other citrus fruits). Each essential oil has a specific mode of action, but as a whole, essential oil products have been demonstrated to improve animal performance through improved palatability, antimicrobial effects, enzyme stimulation in the digestive tract, and improved nutrient digestibility.
Enzymes are biological molecules that increase the rate of chemical reactions. Enzymes are commonly given the –ase designation at the end of the name to identify the compound the enzyme acts upon. For example, phytase enzymes act on phytate to primarily release phosphorus and proteases act on proteins to release amino acids.
Animal feed, regardless of type, must contain the substrate the enzyme acts upon for the enzyme to be effective. Enzyme additions to ABF feeds can provide a couple of unique benefits. Enzymes can improve the digestibility of nutrients in feed, which in turn reduces the quantity of undigested feed available to pathogenic bacteria in the cecum or large intestine. In addition, enzymes can break down targeted anti-nutritional factors in feed ingredients, which in turn can reduce the negative effects of the anti-nutritional factors on the performance and health of the animal.
Wenger Feeds uses a combination of additive types in ABF feeding programs. A study was recently completed at the Wenger Feeds Broiler Research House to evaluate the effect of additives on the performance of broilers fed an ABF feed program. Birds were housed in a tunnel ventilated building with 37,500 birds (5 pens of 7,500 birds/pen) and fed one of three treatments for 42 days.
Treatment 1 was a control ABF feed program with no additives added for disease prevention. Treatment 2 was an ABF program with a prebiotic + an essential oil in the starter phase (days 0 to 16) and the same prebiotic + a DFM in the grower phase (days 17 to 28). Treatment 3 was an ABF program with an alternative prebiotic + the same essential oil from Treatment 2 in the starter phase and the same prebiotic from Treatment 2 + an alternative essential oil in the grower phase. All diets contained the same multi-enzyme product and a coccidiostat. The results are shown in Table 1.
Broilers fed either of the ABF feeding programs with additives grew faster and were heavier at slaughter than birds fed no additives. Feed conversion was improved when the prebiotics and essential oils used in Treatment 3 were added to the ABF feed program, but not when the prebiotic, essential oil and DFM combination in Treatment 2 were used. Overall, feed cost per pound of gain of birds fed the additive combination in Treatment 2 was similar to Treatment 1, but increased nearly $0.02/pound of gain when the additives from Treatment 3 were utilized.
The results of this experiment demonstrate the potential benefits of including additives in ABF feed programs. Producers must evaluate the profitability measures important to their operation to determine the best value additive program in ABF production.
The use of DFM’s, prebiotics, essential oils, and enzymes can play a role to help producers meet production goals when producing eggs and meat with ABF feed programs. There are many products available within each of these categories. Wenger Feeds has demonstrated the potential benefits of different combinations of these products in a commercial research house. Operations producing meat and eggs using an ABF production system should use cost effective products with proven efficacy (determined through research) to reach performance and profitability goals.
Kevin Herkelman, Ph.D., Nutrition Services Manager
The tremendous increase in grain costs over the past few years has increased focus on feed programs. Even small improvements in the feed programs used to produce eggs and meat can lead to substantial savings in feed costs and dramatically improve profitability. Phase feeding is a common practice used to implement feed programs. The objective of this article is to review the benefits of phase feeding and for producers already using phase feeding programs to discuss the need to periodically review phase feeding programs to improve profitability.
What is phase feeding? Phase feeding is a term used to describe the feeding of several diets for a relatively short period of time to more closely match an animal’s nutrient requirements. When one diet is fed for a long period of time (Figure 1) the feed meets the nutrient requirements of the animal “on average.” However, at any given point in time, the feed is either under or over the animal’s nutrient requirements.
With this type of feeding program, we would expect animal performance to be reduced early, since the animal is not getting the nutrients required to meet established performance goals. Later, when the feed’s nutrient content is greater than the animal’s requirements, we are adding unnecessary cost to production. In fact, in some cases the excess nutrients can be detrimental to animal performance and certainly leads to excess nutrient excretion to the environment.
Through phase feeding (Figure 2), you more closely match the animal’s nutrient requirements and minimize the over- and under-feeding of nutrients. Ideally, to get maximum benefit from phase feeding, diets to be fed and feed budgets are established based on actual animal performance and profitability/performance goals. The correct diets and feed budgets must be established for each stage of production. Information from breeding companies about expected performance in commercial conditions can be useful in establishing expected performance.
The disadvantages of moving from one feed to a phase feeding system includes greater complexity in ordering feed and the potential need to install additional feed bins on the farm. However, with increased pressures on profitability, these disadvantages must be weighed against the benefits of improved animal performance and profitability.
A broiler feed example will be used to show the practical benefits of moving to a phase feeding system on animal performance and profitability. Let’s assume one feed is fed to a house of 40,000 broilers for 42 days. The feed meets the “average” nutrient requirements over this 42 day period and costs $400/ton. Birds average 5.5 lb at 42 days with an average feed conversion of 1.87. Feed requirements are 10.3 lb/bird (5.5 x 1.87) with a feed cost is $2.06/bird or $82,400 for the house.
To develop a phase feeding for these same broilers, we consult with the breeding company and establish a feeding program with three feeds with the same “average” price (Starter= $420, Grower= $400, Finisher= $380/ton) as the one feed program above. However, the feed budget for these 3 feeds is adjusted to match the bird’s nutrient requirements (Figure 2). Based on this information, the Starter, Grower and Finisher feeds are fed at 1, 3 and 6 lb/bird, respectively.
Since we are more closely matching the nutrient requirements of the broilers, feed conversion is improved to 1.82 during the same 42 day period with a 5.5 lb broiler weight. The phase feeding system results in a feed cost of $1.95/bird or $78,000 for the house. Total feed cost has been reduced over $4,000 for the house using the phase feeding program. This example underestimates the value of phase feeding since it assumes the same adjusted weight (which we would expect to be improved) and same mortality/morbidity (which we would also expect to be improved).
Even with phase feeding, if the diets and/or feed budget do not match expected performance, feed costs will be unnecessarily increased or animal performance will be reduced. Audits should be routinely conducted to make sure established feed budgets and diets match performance criteria established when designing feed programs.
We may want a particular diet to last two weeks based on expected/past performance, so we establish a feed budget of 2 pounds of feed per animal. However, if the 2 pounds of feed per animal actually lasts three weeks, we must investigate why. In this case, the animals are matching the feed budget but are receiving the wrong budget to achieve established performance guidelines. Being on budget with the wrong budget/wrong diet can be very costly. If this is the case, work with your nutritionist to properly match budgets/diets with performance targets.
Once the correct diets and correct feed budget are established, strict adherence to established feed budgets is a critical step to assure the proper amount of each diet is being fed. Over-feeding a budget unnecessarily increases feed costs, while underfeeding a budget reduces animal performance. Either of these situations reduces overall profitability.
Feed budgets are typically established by a nutritionist to provide a certain quantity of each diet per animal (23 lb/100 birds). Practically, feed budgets are used by producers and feed companies to provide a certain quantity of feed for an entire group of animals being fed (10 tons/group). Many times the feed budget for a group of animals is not correct, because the correct number of animals is not used in calculating the budget or animal inventory is not properly adjusted for deaths, culls, or other animal removal. Feed budgets are most effective when they match the number of animals actually being fed.
Phase feeding is an important part of establishing feed programs to meet animal performance and profitability goals. Producers not using phase feeding should consult with a nutritionist to establish the potential benefit of phase feeding for their operation. Producers who already use phase feeding should work with their nutritionist to periodically review their feed programs and adjust accordingly to meet production and profitability goals.
By Ray Leiby, Feed Quality Coordinator
In order to keep your feed fresh and nutritious, it is important to periodically clean your feed bins and to avoid putting one type of feed on top of another.
The presence of mold in a feedstuff or completed feed does not necessarily mean that it is producing a mycotoxin. Molds will germinate, grow, reproduce, and produce mycotoxins when provided with:
In addition, the length of storage and degree of microorganism containment before storage are also important. Feeds and feed ingredients, when stored under normal conditions, provide all elements necessary for microorganism growth and reproduction.
Reasons to empty feed bins:
• Maintain nutrient value of feed. (See Table)
• Maintain structural integrity (pellet quality, uniform mix) of feed.
• Proper feed rotation/inventory management.
• Reduce risk of contaminants, insects, moisture, mold and toxins, and the resulting odors.
• Proper application of medications.
• Less variety of feed, less chance of incorrect feed.
• Efficiency of delivery: bigger loads = better pellet quality.
• Build-up of old feed reduces storage capacity.
• Increased life of bin structure.
Flow of Feed from Storage Bin
• The first feed to leave the bin is directly above the bin opening. If feed remains in the bin from a previous flock or herd, it will be released first as new feed is piled on top. (Figure 1)
• As the feed level drops in the center, feed at the outer edges of the bin begins to fall into the center. If different types of feed are piled onto each other in the bin, they will funnel out of the bin and become mixed. (Figure 2)
• If bin is not completely emptied, feed may remain in the area of the bin shoulders. (Figure 3) • Old feed will become trapped if new feed is placed in the bin prior to completely emptying the bin.
Suggested Management Procedures
1. Keep bins dry. Moisture and warmth promote mold growth. 2. Repair any bin leaks.
3. Inspect bin lids for proper seal.
4. Rotate feed in bins to allow each bin to stand empty whenever possible.
5. Remove all caked and moldy feed to prevent buildup.
6. Avoid returning left-over feed from the farm as it may serve as a source of contamination in the feed mill. Please note: In order to prevent contamination, feed removed from the farm is not permitted to return to Wenger Feeds’ mills.
7. Wash and air-dry bins at least two times per year—ideal times are late spring and early fall. Empty the boot and wash and dry it as well.
8. Goal: Use only one feed type at a time per bin.
9. Maintain fill-system in good state of repair—avoid the “duct tape” syndrome and replace worn tube augers.
10. Document all cleaning procedures. Documents provide evidence of cleaning and a record of cleaning frequency.
In summary, proper farm bin management will improve animal health and feed efficiency while lowering equipment maintenance and replacement costs, which will improve your bottom line.
Dr. Kevin Herkelman, Product Support and Development Manager
Nutrition plays a major role in the profitability of animal production. Feed accounts for up to 70% of total poultry and swine production costs. The goal of a feeding program is to meet the nutrient needs of animals, based on optimal performance, with a mixture of ingredients, at the lowest cost. Achieving this goal requires a very complex process. The purpose of this article is to discuss the important elements of establishing the nutrient needs of animals and how to match those nutrient needs with available ingredients. The ultimate goal is to optimize profitability by matching established nutrient needs of the animal with appropriate ingredient mixtures.
The nutrient needs of an animal can be depicted by the following graph.
At low levels of nutrient intake, animals will exhibit specific deficiency symptoms based on the specific nutrient(s) that are deficient. In this stage, animals are not receiving a diet adequate to support normal growth or productivity. No animal should ever be fed a deficient diet.
A feeding program in the sub-optimal stage will prevent deficiency symptoms, but the animal still is not receiving adequate nutrition to maximize growth, egg production, and/or profitability. The National Research Council publishes nutrient requirements for different species. These estimates are determined by researchers who critically evaluate the scientific literature and determine “best” estimates of nutrient requirements. These estimates are minimum standards and are not to be considered recommended nutrient allowances. This is mainly because the estimates include no margin of safety margin.
The stage of optimum nutrition typically optimizes profitable production. In this stage, animals are receiving nutrient levels sufficient to maximize productivity profitably. Nutrient requirements in this stage are best determined through sound production research.
The law of diminishing returns would suggest animals should be fed just before maximized performance in this “optimum” stage to achieve maximum profitability. Often times this stage of nutrient levels has been historically used to provide a safety margin to account for variability in animals, feed ingredients, etc. However, as ingredient costs increase, the acceptable safety margin continues to be challenged.
Beyond this optimal stage of nutrition is a stage for special applications. Animal under immune challenges or applications where animals are being fed to meet a specific market demand may require nutrient levels in this stage. Otherwise, animals fed nutrient levels in this stage are only improving performance minimally or not at all. If there is not a specific need for nutrients at this level, feed cost is increased with no beneficial financial return.
Feed is made up of several ingredients, which are grouped into ingredients providing energy (fats, oils and carbohydrates), protein (amino acids), vitamins, and minerals. Cereal grains such as corn, wheat, and barley, plus additional fat will be used to mainly provide energy. Soybean meal, extruded and expelled soybeans, canola meal and poultry byproduct meal are used in diets to mainly provide protein. Ingredients must be evaluated for their nutrient content to help establish the amount of each ingredient to be included in the diet.
Feed ingredients are chemically broken into the different components described above. However, to determine the suitability of ingredients for poultry and swine, it is necessary to break these components into smaller fractions. For example, proteins are made of amino acids. Poultry and pigs don’t actually have a requirement for protein, but there are ten amino acids required to be in the diet at specified minimum amounts. In this case, it is important to analyze the amino acid composition of the feed ingredients.
Likewise, ash is composed of several minerals (calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, etc.), which are critical nutrients required at specific amounts in poultry and swine diets. Analysis of ash alone gives very little information about the suitability of an ingredient to meet the nutritional requirements of the animal. More detailed analysis of the actual minerals making up the ash component is needed. In addition, the extent of how well these nutrients are utilized by the animal (usually reported as digestible or available nutrients) can also be utilized in feed formulation and are determined through extensive research.
Chemical methods used to analyze ingredients are expensive and cumbersome, often requiring days to weeks to complete. However, newer equipment and procedures have been developed, which enable the rapid evaluation of most materials. For example, near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIR) is one technique used by Wenger Feeds to quickly evaluate feed ingredients for amino acids, protein, fiber, and fat.
Nutrient content of ingredients can vary significantly from one supplier to the other. For this reason, it is important to determine the nutrient content of an ingredient by supplier. Nutrient content of an ingredient can also vary by season. Cereal grains like corn fill out ears poorly in drought years, which can reduce corn quality. New crop corn and soybean meal derived from new crop soybeans typically have a different nutrient content than corn and soybean meal from a previous year’s crop.
Feed ingredients used in animal feeds must meet all guarantees and any pre-determined buying specifications. These guarantees include both physical and chemical parameters. The physical evaluation provides preliminary information on the quality of the ingredient. This involves assessing physical qualities such as weight, color, smell, and whether the ingredient is contaminated with foreign material. This physical evaluation typically occurs in the ingredient receiving area of the feed mill and is a key step in the quality evaluation of a feed ingredient.
Although the average composition of many common ingredients is known, ingredients can be variable. For this reason, the average composition of ingredients is typically discounted to account for the degree of ingredient variability. This helps to meet targeted nutrient needs, regardless of ingredient variability. Nonetheless, finished feeds should be analyzed on a routine basis to verify that the process used for ingredient analysis results in the expected final feed.
The most important area to evaluate the suitability of an ingredient testing program is in animal productivity. When feed is given to animals, they are only able to break down part of the feed and absorb it into the body for maintenance, growth, egg production, lactation, etc. The rest is lost through feces and urine, which are excreted together by poultry. Animal productivity defines the real nutritive value of the feed and must be measured and utilized as part of an ingredient and animal nutrient needs evaluation.
Ingredients must also be researched to determine optimum levels in feed. Many byproducts can be potentially used to reduce feed cost, but we must understand the influence of using the byproducts on animal performance. Often byproducts with proper nutrient values can be formulated into feed and result in no change in animal performance. Typically, there is a maximum inclusion level at which higher inclusion levels result in reduced animal performance and/or the ingredient is no longer cost effective to use. These maximum inclusion levels can also vary by productive stage (i.e. maximum inclusions might be lower in starter diets than finishing diets).
Wenger Feeds has research capabilities to evaluate nutrient requirements and ingredients for layers, pullets, broilers, and grow-finish swine in production settings. These research locations are designed to test nutrient levels and ingredients in a “controlled” research setting but still in facilities similar to those found in actual animal production. Examples of research conducted in these facilities include: an evaluation of maximum inclusion levels of Distiller’s Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS) in layer diets, meeting the body weight goals in pullets, estimating lysine and energy requirements of grow-finish pigs, and the influence of nutrition on skin and feather quality in broilers.
In summary, nutrient levels less than targeted levels can result in suboptimal animal performance, and nutrient levels in excess of targeted levels add unnecessary costs. Both result in reduced profitability. The goal in formulation is to meet targeted dietary nutrient needs with sound, cost effective ingredients critical to meet financial goals.
Dr. Kevin Herkelman, Product Support and Development Manager
Distiller’s Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS) is a by-product of the distillery industries and is the dried product remaining after grain (mainly corn) is fermented with yeasts and enzymes to convert starch to alcohol. More than 95% of the DDGS in the U.S. comes from plants producing ethanol for fuel and the remaining comes from beverage alcohol plants.
The use of DDGS from modern ethanol plants in poultry and swine diets offers producers an opportunity to reduce diet costs, maintain animal performance, and improve profitability. DDGS is the most commonly fed byproduct from ethanol production fed to poultry and swine. From a nutritional standpoint, the energy value of DDGS is the same as corn even though almost all of the starch has been removed. This is because DDGS contains approximately three times the level of fat (~10%) as corn (~3.5% fat). This increased concentration of oil offsets the removal of starch on an energy basis.
Recently, dry-mill ethanol plants (plants supplying DDGS) have started to extract a portion of the oil from DDGS. Approximately, 50% of the ethanol plants in the U.S. are currently extracting oil. By the end of 2012, it is estimated that nearly 80% of ethanol plants will be extracting oil to some degree. The oil is removed from the condensed distillers solubles or stillage, which is the product left after ethanol has been removed. The extraction is a mechanical process utilizing centrifuges to remove the oil. Ethanol plants invest approximately $3 million to be able to extract oil but are able to pay back the investment in a matter of months due to current high prices received for selling corn (vegetable) oil.
A majority of the corn oil being extracted is being used in biodiesel production. With the large amount of oil being extracted, there is a potential to use corn oil in animal feeds. This provides producers using all-vegetable diets an alternative vegetable oil to meet the energy needs of animals.
What influence does the removal of a portion of the oil have on the nutritional value of DDGS? Research conducted by POET nutritionists with poultry suggests that energy is reduced around 45 kcal/lb for every percent oil removed from DDGS. If 2% of oil is removed from DDGS, this results in an approximately 90 kcal/lb less energy in the resulting DDGS product.
However, swine researchers at the University of Minnesota and at USDA-ARS in Ames, Iowa suggest an adjustment in energy level based strictly on the amount of oil removed underestimates the energy reduction in DDGS. This is because the energy value of DDGS is influenced by both the fat and fiber level in DDGS. As fat is extracted from DDGS, the concentration of fiber is increased. Initial equations are now available for nutritionists to predict the energy of DDGS based on fiber and fat components in DDGS.
Table 1 shows a comparison of the nutrient profile of low and high fat Dakota Gold DDGS as analyzed by nutritionists at POET. The high fat DDGS contained 10.48% fat, and the low fat DDGS had 5.49% fat. The crude fiber content of the low fat DDGS was more concentrated as discussed earlier. However, the crude protein content of the low fat DDGS was increased. The concentration of critical amino acids like methionine, cystine, and lysine were similar between the two sources of DDGS. These differences in nutrient content need to be accounted for, in addition to the change in energy, when evaluating the overall nutritional value of partially de-oiled DDGS.
On the positive side for swine, partially de-oiled DDGS would be expected to have less of a negative impact on carcass quality since de-oiled DDGS would have less unsaturated fat. If producers have fed lower levels of DDGS or removed DDGS from diets prior to marketing, because of known or perceived problems with “soft” carcasses, de-oiled DDGS may allow producers to use DDGS in feeds all of the way to marketing.
The bottom-line with the changes in nutrient content of partially de-oiled DDGS is to determine the effect of utilizing DDGS in poultry and swine feeds. To evaluate economical value, the two sources of DDGS in Table 1 were compared in a representative peak layer, broiler finisher, and swine finisher feeds. The energy value for the two different DDGS sources was based on equations from POET nutritionists for poultry and from 2012 University of Minnesota and USDA/ARS research for swine.
The results of the economic analysis are shown in Table 2. The first column is the cost of the feed when no DDGS is allowed in the diet. The second column is the cost of the feed when either the Low Fat or High Fat DDGS is allowed in the diet (200 lb/ton maximum in the layer and broiler diets and 400 lb/ton maximum in the swine diet). The third column is the feed price difference.
All feeds used the maximum amount of DDGS (defined above) regardless of DDGS type. The addition of either low fat or high fat DDGS reduced feed cost. However, the use of the high fat DDGS saved over $4 more per ton in the layer and broiler feeds and over $8 more per ton in the swine feed than using low fat DDGS.
The partial removal of oil from DDGS has a significant effect on energy value of DDGS. The energy level of DDGS is reduced not only as a result of the extraction of oil but also due to a concentration of the fiber components in DDGS. These changes in nutritional value significantly impact the economic value of using DDGS in poultry and swine feeds. In the examples shared, the use of Low Fat or High Fat DDGS still helped to reduce feed cost, but greater savings were realized using High Fat DDGS. As more ethanol plants extract at least a portion of the oil from DDGS, Wenger Feeds will be monitoring price and critically evaluating the payback from utilizing de-oiled DDGS.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently released three guidance documents regarding antibiotic use in animal agriculture.
First, the FDA is issuing an updated, final version of guidance for the industry, The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals (Guidance #209). The guidance establishes the framework for phasing out production uses of antimicrobials that are important in treating humans and phasing in veterinary consultation or oversight of the remaining therapeutic uses of such drugs.
Second, FDA is issuing for public comment draft guidance (Guidance #213) that will guide drug companies seeking to voluntarily revise product labels.
Third, the agency is inviting comment on the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) regulation that governs veterinary authorization of the use of certain drugs in animal feed. VFD drugs are animal drugs intended for use in or on animal feed, which are limited to use under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Changes are needed to modernize and streamline VFD procedures in order to facilitate phasing in greater veterinary oversight of the use of antibiotics in animal feeds in a manner that is both practically feasible and efficient.
These documents were issued with the intent to modify the distribution and use requirements of antimicrobial drugs and of animal feeds containing such animal health products. FDA created these documents to address allegations of FDA-approved feed and water use of antimicrobials contributing to human antimicrobial resistance.
Under this new FDA policy, all antimicrobial medicines approved for use in animal agriculture will be used only for therapeutic purposes—disease treatment, control and prevention—and under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian through use of a VFD.
Upon issuance of the final version of guidance #213, FDA intends to monitor the progress of its strategy for the voluntary adoption of the changes outlined, including the progress of measures intended to facilitate an orderly and minimally disruptive transition. After 3 years, FDA intends to evaluate the rate of voluntary adoption of the proposed changes across affected products. The agency will consider further action as warranted in accordance with existing provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for addressing matters related to the safety of approved new animal drugs.
By Rebecca Ranck, Compliance Coordinator
As producers in the agricultural industry, you have to deal with the loss of animals on a regular basis. Dealing with mortality can create hurdles in itself, with finding an appropriate rendering facility or using composting techniques to handle the mortality generated on your operation. Many times there isn’t an easy solution, or it takes too much time and research to determine the best and most cost effective way to handle mortality for your specific operation and set up.
These driving factors were the main reason that Kurt Good, manager of Good’s Livestock, Inc., began looking into other options. A few years ago, he was using a rendering company to remove mortality from his hog buying station and was paying increasingly higher fees. The rendering company noted that Kurt might want to look into alternative methods of disposing of mortality. While he considered a land fill, the charges were higher than the rendering fees he was currently paying.
Kurt’s further research took him to the World Pork Expo held in Des Moines, Iowa where he saw in-vessel composting, which keeps the process in a contained environment therefore minimizing environmental pollution and improving biosecurity.
This concept really seemed like a great idea, but the models of in-vessel composters sold on the market were not big enough to meet his needs. He was also concerned about safety and the lack of simplicity of operation in the models on the market. So, Kurt decided to talk to an engineer to see if they could come up with a better model. Together with another partner, they formed a new company, Rotary Composters, LLC, and developed the Rotoposter®. This equipment was engineered to be a simpler, safer, more robust system that made dealing with mortality safe, easy, and effective. Good’s Livestock, Inc. purchased the prototype model, which underwent testing at his buying station.
The unit is made up of a hydraulic cylinder that drives the rotation of the drum. The unit has a loading hopper so that anyone loading the unit can dump the mortality and bulking agent directly into the unit with a skid loader. The Rotoposter® comes equipped with monitoring ports placed every 8 feet, so temperature and moisture content readings can easily be tracked.
The ideal conditions for composting are temperatures in the range of 131 to 160 degrees, 45 to 65% moisture content, and a 25-40:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. Currently, Kurt is using horse manure that has some sawdust and straw along with finished compost reintroduced into the load end. You can also use poultry litter, sawdust, wood shavings, shredded paper, or any other compostable carbon source available to you. While Kurt tried using manure from the buying station, it proved too wet and created excess moisture in the compost.
The finished composted material is used as a soil amendment for land application. “The compost has made a significant difference in the soils they have amended,” noted Kurt.
The Rotoposter® is controlled by a programmable logic controller (PLC) that allows the operator to set timers to rotate the unit on preselected intervals and for a preselected duration. Currently, Kurt runs the composter every 8 hours for about 42 minutes. During the winter, he runs the composter about every 12 hours. The Rotoposter® is designed to be easy to operate with minimal maintenance.
Many producers have shown interest in the patent-pending Rotoposter®. Various models are currently in operation or in manufacturing for over a dozen different hog operations. The units come in 10 different sizes with the ability to handle from 1,000 to 10,000 of weekly mortality. These estimates are based upon the results obtained with the unit Kurt uses at the buying station, which has been in operation since 2010. In that time, Rotary Composters, LLC has had time to make adjustments to make the equipment even better.
The company currently has a smaller unit available for immediate sale that will handle up to 1,000 pounds of mortality weekly. They are willing to sell it at a discount to any poultry producer who is willing to provide poultry test data back to the company. The Rotoposter® is currently available through the following vendors: Farmer Boy Ag and Northeast Ag Systems. To learn more, visit: http://www.rotarycomposters.com.