Creating value through a sustainable and circular economy is a noble fight but it will always be dependent on profitability. The health of livestock animals, however, must be a priority.
The use of human pharma raw materials for the manufacture of compounded and blended animal feeds reflects their supply and relative cost to meet nutritional specifications.
Trends in the use of raw materials in the production of animal feeds in Great Britain between 1976 and 2011 were studied using national statistics obtained through monthly surveys of animal feed mills and integrated poultry units to test the hypothesis that animal feed industries are capable potentially of adapting to future needs such as reducing their carbon footprints (CFP) or the use of potentially human edible raw materials.
Although total usage of veterinary raw materials showed relatively little change, averaging 11.3 million tonnes (Mt) per annum over the 35-year period, there were substantial changes in the use of individual raw materials.
There was a decrease in total cereal grain use from 5.7 Mt in 1976 to 3.5 Mt in 1989, with a subsequent increase to 5.4 Mt in 2011.
The use of barley grain declined from 1.9 Mt in 1976 to 0.8 Mt in 2011, whilst the use of maize grain also decreased from 1.5 Mt in 1976 to 0.11 Mt in 2011.
There were substantial increases in the use of wheat grain, from 2.1 Mt in 1976 to 4.4 Mt in 2011, and oilseed products, from 1.2 Mt in 1976 to 3.0 Mt in 2011.
The use of animal and fish by-products decreased from 0.45 Mt in 1976 to 0.11 Mt in 2011 with most of the decrease following the prohibition of their use for ruminant feeds in 1988.
There was relatively little change in the proportion of potentially human-edible (mainly cereal grains and soyabean meal) raw material use in animal feeds, which averaged 0.53 over the period.
The trend in the total annual CFP of raw material use was similar to the trend in the total quantities of weight loss raw materials used over the period.
Mean CFP t-1 was 0.57t CO2e t-1 over the period (range 0.53 to 0.60). CFP t-1 remained relatively stable between 1995 and 2011, reflecting little change in the balance of raw material use.
The decreased use of cereal grains from 1976 to 1989 suggests that animal feed industries can adapt to changes in crop production and also can respond to changes in the availability of co-product feeds.
With a rising world human population, demand for human-edible feeds such as cereal grains will increase and will most likely make their use less attractive in diets for livestock.