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Very recently, I received an email from a student asking me about the “perfect feed composition tables.” It reminded me of myself, many years ago, when as an undergraduate I was asking one of my professors the exact same question. His answer? He was still looking for them himself.
After many years of field nutrition experience, I can confidently say there is no perfect set of feed composition values, if only because feed composition values do not remain standard over time. An example: Just a few weeks ago, Peter Best, former editor of Pig International and my first mentor in all things publishing articles, brought to my attention that in the last decade or so, crude protein in Danish national feed wheat has dropped from about 14 percent down to approximately 11 percent. Why? Most likely because the modern varieties are placing more emphasis on yield (volume) than nutrient content (quality), but it could also be the weather, different fertilization schemes, etc., etc.; you get the picture!
But, back to the original question, and here’s my own answer: my preferred tables of feed composition values are those of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) titled Tables of Composition and Nutritional Value of Feed Materials. These were published in 2004 (second edition), but since then I believe there is now an internet-based database that includes even more material than the original paper-based matrix. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to use this expanded database, yet. In addition, I am using the NRC (U.S.) books on Nutrient Requirements for Swine (and poultry), especially when it comes to formulating diets to be used in the U.S. And, of course, for “exotic” ingredients, like pea protein, one has to use the values furnished by suppliers.
I will not claim any of the above titles are the best out there, only that I have been using them since 2000 without any problems. I am sure the same can be said by any other nutritionist for their favorite tables. So, what would YOU answer to someone seeking the ultimate feed composition tables?