For those already active in livestock farming circles this articles heading is somewhat of a daft question. But when conversing with those from non-agricultural backgrounds the word is often met with “stock..what”? So here’s an effort to address the topic for those that fit this confused state of understanding.

Many of our farmed or pet animals exist because of the benefits that stockfeed supplies. Broadly speaking it’s manufactured feed, derived from vegetarian or meat based products catering for many animals with some of Australia’s major volume categories being dairy, beef, poultry (meat and layers), pig, sheep, aqua and pet foods.

Angus beef cattle consuming stockfeed on the trail.

Stock feed taken in its literal form encompasses everything consumed by an animal in its natural environment combined with that fed out. Stockfeed as an industry term encompasses two groups; concentrates which are high in energy or protein and roughage which is higher in fibre but lower in energy. Common feed types in Australia are cereal grains such as wheat, barley and oats along with fibre sources such as hay, straw or silage. Within this later category are human byproduct categories like apple pomace, bakery waste, and brewers’ grain which would be otherwise wasted were it not for livestock feeding.

Stockfeed manufacturers take basic raw commodities, have them formulated by trained nutritionists who then design the diet based on diverse nutritional groups like carbohydrates, proteins, fibre, lipids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and of course water. The recipe for the feed is uploaded to computer software which then calls the feed into the mill for weighing, grain seed crushing, liquid injection, mixing and dispatching to outload silos for trucks to collect and deliver to farm. In the instance of pellets a further process is involved with the recipe being gelatinised by steam, pressed through a die and cut to create small, bullet-like pellets. The whole process can be equated to collecting the ingredients for a cake, mixing them together and baking it in preparation for serving.

Calf rearer stockfeed shown up close

Generally stockfeed rations are designed to complement other food sources that maybe naturally available but are deficient in certain nutritional values. Maximising protein production in the form of meat, milk or eggs means that balancing the animals diet for health and production is an utmost priority.

The extent to which stockfeed is used depends on the objectives of the farm manager and seasonal conditions. If for instance the enterprise’s production objective is to maximise weight gain, then a high energy supplement such as a finished feed grain ration would be appropriate. Purchasing is based on cost for each unit of energy, so depending on the mega-joules of energy per kilogram, hay at $150 a tonne may actually be more expensive than wheat at $280 per tonne. This can be otherwise known as feed conversion efficiency.

As with humans, animals with a balanced, nutritious diet are healthier, live longer lives, and are more productive. As the largest user of our national grains crop, stockfeed plays a pivotal role in transforming raw ingredients, improving livestock agriculture output and thus providing more protein produce for Australians and the wider world. It’s a pivotal cog within the food supply chain and one the team at Reid Stockfeeds are extremely proud to play a part in.

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