Today, farmers are turning back to making their own feeds and shunning the commercially manufactured feeds in an effort to increase their farm profit margins. In most cases however, making own feeds at home is understood as mixing raw materials using simplified formulations got from animal feed experts’ or feed-related trainings that a farmer may have attended. Making quality feed is more than just having the measurement of ingredient parts, it starts right from the choice of quality raw materials, the manufacturing process and the quality assessment of final product.
Feed ingredients must be of high quality, palatable to the species of animal targeted and the nutrient characteristics of each of the raw materials must also be well understood.
You should not buy raw materials from untrusted suppliers or because they are cheap, it may turn to be expensive when your production is faulted or your animals starts developing side effects. Where some raw materials for a specific type of feed is missing, you have the option of using a substitute e.g. soybean meal for omena. Ingredients such as omena should be free of sand and seashells and maize germ should be completely dry. Sometimes a simple visual examination is used to assess the sanitary status of a raw material for presence of weevils, cockroaches, worms, abnormal colouring or rancid smells. Coccidiostats should also be incorporated in all poultry feeds and young calves as well as including toxin binders.
The process of manufacturing/ making your own involves mixing the different raw materials evenly to come up with a uniform feed. Care should be taken take care not to contaminate the feed here. The process involves the following steps.
Identifying the raw materials for each specific feed: Each species of animals has its own requirements in terms of nutrition that meet the body demand at every specific stage of production. This is why we have feeds for calves, dairy meals for cows, broiler feed, layer feed, sow and weaner mean and so on. Using broiler feed as an example, you should know all the raw materials you require like whole maize, soya, omena, maize bran, lime among others even before measuring the specific amounts needed.
Grinding: This involves reducing coarse materials to finer fragments using a grinding machine. Where raw materials bought are already ground, re-grinding might not be necessary. Before grinding, all the raw materials must be cleaned to remove foreign particles that could be harmful to the health of the stock.
Measuring out: Normally for accurate proportions of raw materials, measuring is done after grinding. This entail measuring out the quantities of each ingredient according to a formula you already have, that is suitable for the livestock species targeted. Accurate measurements can also be arrived at by use of feed formulation softwares available in the market such as Winfeed, Autofeed. Weighing in bags is not advised as it gives much room for error and wastage.
Mixing: The mixing process should be done in such a way that the ingredients are uniformly distributed. This mixing process is usually thorough and takes long enough, to make the mixture as homogenous as possible. To arrive at such a mixture, the use of drum mixer is encouraged as opposed to using spade. Drum mixer can be bought or made in a Jua-kali.
Packing: This operation consists weighing and bagging the mixed feed, followed by sealing.
Storage: If not intended for immediate sales (internal farm use only), store the feeds in a cool dry place free of rodents. Exposure to excess sunlight reduces the quality while wet conditions may ignite slow rotting and get the feed infected with aflatoxins. Depending on the feed composition, the use-by date should be between 3-6 months.
Though you might feel self-reliable and trust the quality of your product, it is wise and recommended that you assess the quality of these products to ensure that they satisfy the nutritional requirements of your stock to ensure optimum productivity. The best ways to check this is by feeding a section of animals on the feeds then monitor their growths and behavior. Alternatively, send a sample of the constituted feeds for testing in feed testing centers like KALRO Naivasha.000