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Feed for Thought

Feed Mill Management

Is it time for a new contract between animal production and society?

July 12, 2012

FEFAC, the European compound feed manufacturers’ federation, recently held its 55th annual meeting in Bruxelles, considered by many to be the European Capital for the feed industry. The EU is an important market which produces 151 million metric tons of compound feed annually and manufacturers don’t want to be left behind in the global market.

Unfortunately, the meeting offered some bad news: feed production was slightly lower in 2011 than it had been in 2010 at -0.3%. Pig feed was at -0.6% and ruminant was at -2.1%. However, there was some good news: poultry feed production came in at +1.1% and is poised to continue growing next year.

In a press release, FEFAC explained: “The most important factors which have weighed on the EU feed demand in 2011 were the still fragile economic situation of the pig sector and the high feed material costs…EU Member countries recorded very heterogeneous performances, with some experiencing dramatic falls of their compound feed production such as Czech Republic (-14%) or Denmark (-6.6%), whereas several countries such as Germany, Poland and, to a lesser extent, Italy, managed to buck the general market trend with positive growth around 3%, supported by a surprisingly quick recovery of pig farming activity.

The high cereal prices over the last two years contributed to improve the competitive market position of industrial compound feed production vs. home mixing. However, this gain was offset to a certain extent by the development of alternative pig feeding strategies based on roughly grinded feed and liquid feeding.

As a result, Germany’s position as leading EU country in terms of total compound feed production before France was strengthened, with Spain scoring third.”

For 2012, FEFAC experts foresee a stabilization in cattle feed production, a slight increase in poultry feed demand (+1%) offset by a reduction in the demand for layer feeds (-5%) and a further setback in pig feed production (-0.5%). Overall, compound feed production is expected to remain stable.

Production of 151 million metric tons: it seems like a huge amount, but pessimism is high because of the pig crisis and an increase of imports. Well, pessimism might not be the most accurate term; maybe we should speak about a paradigm change. The EU will supply only part of its own needs and, at the same time, lose parts of its historical export ability (note the Doux case in France). Becoming independent is not on the agenda even though a vegetal protein plan is on its way, and competition is high on its own ground as shown by Germany’s growth.

A friend of mine, a consultant for change management, told me that the main resistance to change is the fear of losing what is known to accept the unknown. And paradigm changes require structural changes. For example, why not create a new contract between animal production and society? Without agreement from and with society, local production will not be supported by people and we’ll see researchers, engineers, formulators and even workers and farmers going out of animal production because they’ll not fulfill a basic human need: to be recognized as useful to society.

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