“Today, the feed industry has a wide range of options for feed formulation. Choosing the right software depends on careful analysis of needs and cost advantage. Linear programming based feed optimization software is a convenient tool for users. When professional software is preferred, total cost of ownership must be considered.”
Yavuz İLİK Founder, CEO
First of all, we have to give credit where credit is due. The subject of this article is about how the work is done or must be done in technical terms. The knowledge of an agricultural engineer or veterinarian on this subject cannot definitely be underestimated. Those which are covered here are the tools and methods that the relevant persons must use in order to obtain much more productive and cheap products.
At the beginning of the 1950s, the modern-day computer began to enter the human life. With this entry, it began to be used in many different areas and for different purposes. One of these areas, of course, was the livestock and feed sector. When we analyze the relevant literature, we came across an article titled “The Minimum-Cost Dairy Feed” published by F.V. Waugh, describing how a feed formula can be prepared using a computer. Given today’s computers and software technologies, it’s not surprising to see that there is a lot of sophisticated software in this field.
The feed formulation is the process of determining the amounts of feed ingredients that need to be mixed to form a product that meets all the nutrient requirements needed for the target animal group. When the costs of bovine, poultry or egg operations are examined, it is obvious that the cost of feeding the animals is the most important expense item. For this reason, it is important that the costs of feeds are kept at a minimum. While feeding the animals at a minimum cost, they need to take certain nutritional values in order to survive and keep their growth, development and yield. At this point, feed formulation software emerges as a tool we can use to ensure that animals are fed both balanced and at low cost.
Feed formulation software uses the “Linear Programming” method to create the cost effective feed formulas mentioned above. With this method, how a feed mixture with desired values can be produced at the lowest cost is calculated. While complicated procedures are carried out at the background, the users simply specify the limitations of the raw material and the feedstock and just press the calculation button. As life is not always easy, the desired result may not always be achieved directly in the linear programming algorithm. During the calculation procedure, it is very likely that an ordinary algorithm can encounter errors and thus cannot reach the result. In order to overcome this trouble, annexes must be created that can understand the errors and get rid of them.
The Linear Programming based feed formulation software has at least three data tables. These are the materials used to prepare the formula, i.e., raw materials, nutrients and formulas.
Nutrients play a central role in the formulation system because they are directly related to both the raw materials to be used and the formulas desired to be produced. In the formulation software, the term “Nutrients” may be used not only in the sense of nutrition, but also in the sense of any parameter which can be measured. For example, physical parameters such as color, odor and density can be considered as nutrients in the formulation software.
The data table for raw materials stores at least four important pieces of information: raw material names, availability of raw materials for the formulation, nutritional values of raw materials and cost of raw materials.
In respect to the feed formulation software with the lowest level of abilities, it is necessary to identify the names and prices of the raw materials, their units and how much exists in which raw material and lastly, the determination of the raw materials and nutrients to be used at the feed formulations desired to be produced. Using this information, it is possible to reach the cheapest feed formula.
While the goal is to achieve the lowest cost formula, there are some issues that must not be overlooked. For example:
• Is it possible to get a cheaper solution by changing the limits of some raw materials or nutrients in very small quantities in response to the user’s solution?
• Do you want to produce feeds with different price and nutritional values under different businesses?
• Are there any other costs on the raw materials that are dependent on certain parameters other than the purchase price?
• Are nutritional values dependent on the value of another nutrient?
• Do you want some of the raw materials have a certain balance among themselves?
• Do you want the total amount of similar raw materials exceeds or does not exceed a certain amount?
• Do you want to know how your formulas will be affected under changing market conditions?
• Do you want to produce very different reports?
• Do you want to send the obtained formula to the mill automation system?
A lot of similar needs can be cited here. Spreadsheet software like MS Excel etc. can make certain calculations in a basic sense and can be used for educational purposes. However, they are insufficient to meet the needs listed above. For that reason, professionally prepared software for this purpose needs to be used for feed formulation solutions.
Of course, there are also differences between professional feed formulation software. Some of the features that this software must offer in terms of their usage needs are as follows:
There are solutions where the formulas called Single Blend or Multi Blend produce the most optimal and cheapest solutions on a one-by-one basis or on the basis of a more-than-one formula at once. The Single Blend allows the formulas to be improved one by one. When a Single Blend is used, it is assumed that all components which can be used in the formula are present in any amount without limitation. This is not a reasonable assumption, because all the ingredients are present in the final quantities for the production of feed at any given time in a particular place. Alternatively, when Multi Blend is used, it is allowed to optimize all formulas at the same time and use these raw materials at formulas in which they have the highest value.
Designing and formulating concentrated products, supplements and premixes is not very simple. If a nutritionist wishes to design a concentrate, he/she must consider the nutritional value contributions of the food supplements to be presented to the animal. Advanced formulation software must optimize both components so that the resulting product can fully serve the market needs. Sometimes a product can have multiple stages of production and the feed formulation software must offer options for optimizing, recording and using it as both a first-stage and second-stage ingredient.
The formulation software must provide a means to explain why some of the raw materials specified at the formula are not used in the formula and what kind of changes will occur as regards the cost of formula when the nutrient properties or raw materials limits change.
The formulation software packages include basic sensitivity analyzes that provide nutrient levels that reach the limit values (minimum / maximum) specified in the formula and the values known as “Shadow Prices” of the rejected components. Advanced software packages offer options for more detailed sensitivity analysis via “Parametric Analysis”, which not only shows shadow prices, but also describes how the level of inclusion will change if the cost of a raw material changes over a wide range of values. Using these tools will help you make decisions about the use of raw materials currently in the silos of the feed mill and in future acquisitions.
Today, the feed industry has a wide range of options for feed formulation. Choosing the right software depends on careful analysis of needs and cost advantage. Linear programming based feed optimization software is a convenient tool for users as long as they provide the additional advantages we have mentioned above. Due to the methods and algorithms used, it is impossible for this software to find different solution results from each other. For that reason, they have no superiority in terms of solution results. When professional software is preferred, total cost of ownership must be considered. The total cost of ownership consists of the initial purchase cost and the update fee requested by some software to keep the software up-to-date. However, spreadsheet applications that are free of charge do not include the above features provided to the user and require a lot of time and effort. The formulation software must be able to integrate not only into the formulation preparations, but also with other software that can be used to increase productivity throughout the organization via such functions as purchasing, compliance with regulatory requirements, production, quality control and sales.
We also suggest you to read our previous article titled "I Need To Automate My Animal Feed Production Plant – HELP!".