Fish Feed Production; D.I.Y. vs Buying from Commercial Brands

fish feed in Abuja

Fish Feed Production; D.I.Y. vs Buying from Commercial Brands

Fish and other livestock farmers have experienced astronomical increase in prices of feeds in recent times. The problem is further compounded by scarcity of the feeds, compelling farmers to consider alternatives for meeting their fish feed needs.

One major way by which many farmers look forward to solving the problem of fish feed scarcity and price hikes is by compounding / producing their own feeds as part of their farm’s activities. While this option has been very rewarding to certain farms, other farmers “have their fingers burnt” at trying out what they suppose would be to them a saving grace.

A number of factors must be put into consideration by every fish farmer in making the decision on whether to exploit the option of producing their own fish feeds or not. The purpose of this publication is to give support to fish farmers through their decision-making process on what source(s) to stick to, in meeting their fish feed needs. The following are factors to consider before choosing to produce your own feeds as a fish farmer, rather than buy from commercial feed brands.

Expertise

Cost

Type of fish production system being (or to be) used

Availability and proximity to quality raw materials

Sustainability of the feed production project

Source of power to drive the feed production process

Feed holding / storage capacity

Environmental impact

Expertise

Before arriving at the decision to compound your fish feeds, it is important to check √ that you actually have an understanding of what your ideal fish feed should be composed of. Where you as the visionary do not have the required expertise, it is a wise alternative to source for someone in your network who has the needed skills. The scope of the proposed project may also warrant that you hire new hands with the needed expertise to join your team.

It must be realized that complete (balanced ration) fish feed is not mere chaff and knowledge of best practices applicable to fish feed production is prerequisite. Areas of knowledge to consider here include that od actual fish feed formulation, optimum nutritional requirement of the fish species in question, handling of feed raw materials, processing, as well as packaging and storage of the finished feed product.

A fisheries venture that successfully identifies competent hands in its team, having considered the aforementioned expertise indicators has a great potential for fish feed production that can be exploited.

Cost

Bearing in mind that one main objective of most businesses (fisheries inclusive), is maximizing profit, the landing cost of feed to be produced needs be projected and compared with the cost of buying commercial brands of feed.

It would be counter productive to engage in all the activity which feed production demands, only to churn out feeds that ultimately compare poorly against what is readily available in the open market. This comparison must be made in terms of both quality and quantity. Even in certain cases where internal feed production costs appear to compare favorably against the cost of buying feeds, the margin should be evaluated to ascertain that it is worth the time and labor demands of the venture.

Type of fish production system / facility being (or to be) used

Fish farmers must understand that different fish production systems / facility have varying capacity to manage waste resulting from introducing fish feeds into them. This also depends to a great extent on the quality and quantity of water available to the fish farm for its operations.

Fish culture systems composed of generous water flow through installations or the recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), for example, have a better capacity to manage complications that may result from accumulated feed wastes in water used to raise fish.

Various pond structures such as earthen ponds, cages, concrete ponds, tarpaulin, plastic, or fiberglass ponds etc. may also have varying capacity at which they are able to remain stable with increasing organic load of feeds introduced and their resulting waste, assuming available water and management system is the same across board.

This factor is of relevance mainly because producing fish feeds that are adequately optimized for good water management often requires above average level of expertise and mechanization. Farmers proposing to employ the average feed milling and pelleting machines must first ascertain that their culture systems are able to handle the amount of organic load to which their fish ponds would be exposed.

Availability / proximity to good quality raw materials

Since fish feed production requires combination of a wide variety of ingredients (feed materials), it is pertinent that potential feed producers secure steady source(s) of all needed materials at a favorable cost and proximity to where they would be used.

Having to travel long distances to source for input materials to feed production may raise the landing cost of such feeds outrageously.

Sustainability of the feed production project

Sustainability is one vital criterion by which to evaluate the feasibility of every venture. This touches of how likely it is that the project would continue to stay afloat, over a long period and profitably so.

To ensure sustainability of a fish feed production project, it must be “checked” that all factors put in place for smooth running of the project are not only favorable for a short while. Long term continuity of the venture must be envisaged from the onset so as to ensure maximum benefit is derived from all effort made.

Source of power to drive the feed production processes

Fish feed production, even in its simplest form, usually involves the use of heavy-duty machines. Production processes such as grinding, mixing, pelleting extrusion, drying and packaging usually involve the use of machines which are either powered by electricity of fuel.

Whichever form of power the feed producer(s) intend to employ to drive the needed machines, it must be ensured that such power is available in needed magnitude and quality at a reasonable cost.

There exist numerous feed production facilities that have been abandoned simply because the project’s visionary discovered late, that they lacked the required power specification needed to drive the project. It is not a bad idea to get advice from competent technicians / engineers on the intricacies to the power requirement for the proposed project, long before the project takes off.

Feed holding / storage capacity

Fish feeds are usually very nutritious and aromatic. This makes them attract the invasion of other animals such as rodents, reptiles, insects, birds, ruminants as well as microorganisms.

This quality and its resulting vulnerability necessitate the need for fish feed producers to ensure they have adequate facilities in place to hold feeds produced in good condition. An invasion of feed holding facilities by the mentioned pests can cause fish feed quality to drop drastically.

Where pests happen to be disease vectors, feed may be significantly contaminated to an extent that they become harmful or lethal to fish that consume them. It is therefore necessary that adequate facilities for keeping feeds in good condition be put in place from the onset.

Farms that lack the needed facilities to store feeds in good condition may find it easier to rather produce feeds in smaller quantities, which can be used up immediately, without the need for long term handling.

Environmental Impact

A would-be fish feed producer must in addition to considering the factors earlier mentioned, identify how the feed production process would affect its environment. Some of the potential disturbances a feed production project may cause in an environment include excessive noise pollution, accumulation of by-products such as grain husks, shells, peels, etc. which may decompose when wet, to generate offensive odors.

Among the positive impact such projects could have in an environment are;

Creation of employment and skill development opportunities to members of the host community.

Availability of good quality feed and fish products to members of the host community at the best obtainable price

Provision of ready market for feed ingredients (e.g., grains) which happen to be produced in such community as they are bought regularly for feed production

It is important that these varying dimensions to the impact of the project on its environment be adequately considered so as to inform all steps needed to mitigate potential negative impact and harness positive ones.

Now that you are better informed, the ultimate decision whether or not to venture into producing your farm’s fish feed is yours to make. Either ways, here’s wishing you a happy fish farming lifetime.

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