In today’s conditions, using animal feed and ration preparation software in the most cost-effective way by staff with basic animal feeding knowledge is a must. This kind of software pays off in a very short period of time while the pay off period changes depending on the amount of production.
CEO/ General Manager
Ration preparation is closely related to experienced agricultural engineers and vets. Experienced agricultural engineers or vets always have comprehensive knowledge about ration preparation and that knowledge should not be negated. We are going to talk about tools and methods in order to obtain much more efficient and cost-effective solutions. We will concentrate on technical methods to be used.
Animal feeding has been applied according to intuitive and conventional knowledge in the sector for years. Available feed types were used for the needs of animals to gain the best results. However, animals were often fed under their needs or unnecessarily exposed to overnutrition. In addition to that, the costs of the feed for milk and meat production were ignored. In the early 50s, the computer was introduced to humanity in order to be used in different aspects of life. Livestock and feed sectors were not exceptions. F.V. Waugh published an article titled The Minimum-Cost Dairy Feed in 1951 and talked about using computers for preparing feed rations. ıt is no surprise that we have cutting-edge software in this field considering today’s computer and software technologies.
The feed formulation is the process of determining the amounts of feed ingredients that need to be mixed to form a product (concentrated feed or total mixture) that meets all the nutrient requirements needed for the target animal group. If we look at the accounting records of livestock, poultry or egg businesses closely, we can clearly see that feed cost is the main cost item. Therefore, it is significant to keep feed costs at a minimum level. While feeding the animals at minimum cost, it should also be kept in mind that they should not be underfed either for sustaining their development, and ensuring that they give sufficient amount of milk. At this point, feed formulation software turns out to be a tool that we can use to provide both balanced and low-cost animal nutrition.
Feed formulation software usually utilizes the Linear Programming method for the aforementioned cost-effective formulations. Thanks to this method, we can calculate the optimum feed mixture that meets nutritional value requirements with the most cost-effective way. While the software makes the sophisticated mathematical transactions in the background, the users can determine ingredient and nutrient limits and they just click the calculate button. Nonetheless, just like the fact that life is not easy all the time, linear programming algorithms may not always give the best result. It is quite probable that an ordinary algorithm enters into an infinite loop during the solution process. In order to solve this problem, patches should be coded to save the algorithm from those kinds of loops.
All Linear Programming based feed formulation software should have at least three data tables which are ingredients to be used to prepare the formulation, that is ingredients; nutrients; and formulations.
Nutrients play a central role in the formulation systems because they are directly related both to the ingredients to be used and formulations to be produced. The term of “Nutrient” can be used for nutrition science or any measurable parameters. For example; physical parameters like color, smell or density may be evaluated as a nutrient within the scope of formulation software.
The data table for ingredients accommodates at least for important information: Name of ingredients, availability of ingredient for a specific formulation, nutritional values of the ingredient and cost of the ingredients.
In a feed formulation software with minimal capabilities; The names and prices of the ingredients, the names and units of the nutrients and the ingredients in which they are found and respective amounts, and lastly the limitations of the feed formulas to be produced as well as the ingredients and nutrients that are intended to be used must be defined. With all this data, the most cost-effective formulation can be obtained. Although the aim is to obtain the most cost-effective formulation, there are certain issues to observe. For example:
• Can the user obtain a more cost-effective solution by slightly changing ingredients or nutrient limitations?
• Do different business units want to produce various feed products with different prices and nutritional values?
• Are there any other costs on ingredients related to certain parameters other than the purchase price?
• Are nutritional values related to another nutrient’s nutritional values?
• Is there a need to keep a certain balance between some ingredients?
• Is there a need to have a limitation for the total amount of similar ingredients?
• Is it desirable to know how their formulas will be affected by dynamic market conditions?
• Is the formula required to be sent to the factory automation system?
• Are past production formulas available?
• Do the feed producing factories/enterprises producing more than one feed want to provide a minimum rate of profitability in their periodic production?
• Can detailed and complex reports be received?
There may be many user needs like that. Spreadsheet software like MS Excel etc. can be used to make certain calculations in a basic way and used for training purposes. However, they are not sufficient to meet the needs that we have mentioned above. Therefore, for feed formulation solutions, software professionally prepared for these purposes should be used.
Of course, all professional feed formulation software is not the same.
There are solution methods called Single Blend and Multi Blend in which the formulas are arranged in the most cost-effective or optimum situation one by one or multiple formulas at one time respectively. When Single Blend is used, all ingredients that can be used in the formulation are considered to be available in any amount without any limitations. But this is not a rational assumption. Because all ingredients to be used in feed production are available in limited amounts. Multi-Blend approach is the alternative of Single Blend approach and it enables to improve all formulations simultaneously and it also allows limitations for the amount of ingredients.
It is not a simple task to design and formulate the concentrated products, supplements and pre-mixtures. A nutritionist should take nutritional added values of feed supplements to be given to animals when designing concentrated products. Advanced formulation software should optimize both products in order to adequately meet market demands for the end product. Sometimes a product can have more than one production stage. The feed formulation software should provide options for optimizing, recording and using this formula as an ingredient that will be used in the second stage from the first stage.
The formulation software shall provide tools to explain why some ingredients added to the formula are not used in the formula and to explain what kinds of changes in the formula cost will occur when the nutritional properties change or the limitations and costs of the ingredients change.
Formulation software packages contain basic sensitivity analysis tools that show “Shadow Prices” values of refused ingredients and level limits (maximum and minimum) of nutritional values that are determined within formulations. Advanced software packages not only show the shadow prices but they also offer alternatives for a more detailed sensitivity analysis through “Parametric Analysis” specifying the additional required levels of an ingredient in case of a fundamental change in its price. Using these tools will help you make decisions for using available ingredients in silos of the feed plant or purchasing new ones.
Today, the feed industry has a wide range of opportunities for feed formulations. Choosing the right software requires a careful analysis of needs and cost advantages. Linear programming based feed optimization software is proper tools for the users provided that they offer the additional advantages that are mentioned above. It is impossible for these software tools to create different solutions due to the methods and algorithms used. Therefore, they are not superior to one another in terms of solution results.
When preferring professional software, the total cost of ownership should be taken into account on top of its basic features. The total cost of ownership consists of the first purchasing cost and update costs for the software that are required by some software in order to keep the software updated. On the other hand, free spreadsheet applications do not offer the user with the features stated above and they require too much time and effort.
Formulation software should also be in a structure suitable to run in an integrated fashion together with different software that can be used to improve the overall efficiency of organization with functions like procurement, compliance to legal legislation, production, quality control and sales. In this way, many processes requiring human input can be made much faster and error-free, and input-based faulty transactions that have escaped the attention and have an effect on profitability can be avoided.
Together with the widespread use of mobile devices, software firms that follow new technologies have started to create mobile versions of ration preparation programs and they enable users to prepare rations wherever they want with their mobile phones and devices. Thanks to these kinds of software, rations can be prepared, customer tracking and order entries can be carried out without the need for a device or computer other than those used by the field staff. As data can be accessed online from everywhere with the use of cloud technologies, data losses that may occur in the course of time can be prevented. Factory or company managers can view customer visits, ration preparations and received orders of all field staff whenever he wants.
To conclude, in today’s conditions, using animal feed and ration preparation software in the most cost-effective way by staff with basic animal feeding knowledge is a must. This kind of software pays off in a very short period of time although the length of the time changes depending on the amount of production.