Trusted information & resources for animal nutrition.

Technical Resources

Feed Formulation


Since feed represents approximately 70 percent of the cost of animal production, opportunities to reduce feed cost needs to be examined.  Often feed formulators can take advantage of lower priced alternative feed ingredients to replace standard feed ingredients without affecting animal performance.  The use of alternative feed ingredients can be advantageous under some conditions

Lesley Nernberg wrote a comprehensive article entitled “Fifteen Factors to Consider When Evaluating and Using Alternative Ingredients”.  This article identifies various factors to consider when deciding on the purchase and use of alternative feed ingredients.

Factors to consider with alternative ingredients:

  1. Composition and Quality: The main reason to consider the use of alternative feed ingredients should be based on nutrient composition and price. Nutrient profiles and quality should be confirmed by laboratory analyses.
  2. Variability: A considerable barrier to utilizing more alternative ingredients within feed formulations can be the nutrient variability. Accurate nutrient profiles are critical.
  3. Nutrient Digestibility/Availability: The extent to which the animal can digest and absorb the nutrients from a feedstuff is important. Many ingredients may seem to have acceptable levels of total nutrients, but they may not be available to the animal for growth or productive purposes.
  4. Relative Value: Relative value refers to the alternative ingredient’s composition and price compared to common standard ingredients. The relative value of an ingredient must be competitive with the ingredient it is to replace.
  5. Suitability or Form of Material: The alternative ingredient may have limitations that affect its ability to transport, store, or process the material. (This factor does not apply to common alternative protein feed ingredients)
  6. Anti-Nutritional Factors: Certain alternative feed ingredients may contain anti-nutrition factors that interfere with the digest, metabolism, or health of animals. Examples are the mycotoxins, trypsin inhibitors, tannins, lectins, and glucosinltates. It is important to know their presence and their impact on the animal.
  7. Palatability: Some alternative ingredients can alter palatability and feed intake.
  8. Free of Hazards: Some alternative ingredients can contain foreign materials that may be considered dangerous to animal consumption. Alternative feed ingredients should be checked for physical hazards, heavy metals and chemicals.
  9. Handling and Storage: Alternative ingredients need to be compatible with the feed milling process to be a cost effective and practical ingredient for utilization within formulations.
  10. Availability and Consistency of Supply: An adequate supply of the material under consideration must exist prior to evaluating the cost and nutritional value. An adequate supply is needed to justify changing the feed formulation.
  11. Stability: Alternative ingredients need to be stable and maintain quality prior to use.
  12. Inclusion Rates: The amount of ingredient to include within a feed formula is highly open to interpretation and the conditions involved. Proper inclusion rates of alternative feed ingredients is important.
  13. Impact on Pellet Quality and Final Feed: An alternative feed ingredient should not significantly alter pellet quality or overall feed performance.
  14. Effect on Meat, Egg, or Milk Quality: An alternative feed ingredient should not impact meat, milk, or egg quality.
  15. Cost: The amount of potential feed cost savings tends to be the biggest factor in determining use of alternative based ingredients.

The author’s conclusion was:  “Alternative feed ingredients should always be considered in feed formulations.  Overall, when such materials are characterized correctly and incorporated to animal diets with no performance impairment, they can be a way to reduce feed and production costs. There are multiple factors to evaluate in using alternative ingredients. When used properly, the financial benefits of alternative feed ingredients can be considerable to animal feeding operations”.