Moisture management is one of the most influential actions one can take to improve feed production efficiency and value. Optimal feed moisture reduces mill energy consumption, material loss and preserves equipment life while enhancing throughput.
Moisture variability directly impacts production cost and feed quality and is dependent on ingredient type, source, age and handling. Fortunately for producers, there is feed milling technology that facilitates moisture optimization throughout feed production, supporting their ability to deliver a safe and nutritious product from creation to consumption.
Optimizing feed moisture allows producers to make more higher quality feed for less.
Moisture-Related Challenges in the Feed Milling Process
The moisture content of feed is variable and, in most cases, altered during the feed milling process. Moisture loss is problematic for producers and end users, significantly impacting nutrient distribution, inventory loss, feed costs, yield and profitability.
Unfortunately, addressing moisture loss is not as simple as adding moisture back into the feed mixing process. Water has high surface tension, often resulting in poor absorption by feed if added directly, allowing water to flash off in the press and cooler or remain free.
Uneven or incomplete water absorption in feed causes issues such as low pellet quality, nutrient segregation and spoilage. High and low moisture content in feed is problematic. High moisture reduces throughput, increases the energy required by the pellet-making process, leads to feed spoilage and creates dense brittle pellets. However, low moisture reduces yields, increases fines, nutrient over formulation and easily broken pellets.
Proper moisture management promotes pellet quality and feed utilization, reduces process loss, prevents feed spoilage and improves batch yield through reduced shrink. Effective moisture optimization and management in feed requires the producer to examine the factors impacting moisture level throughout the feed mixing and pellet-making process.
Ingredient quality varies from supplier to supplier, season to season and lot to lot. Moisture content is a prime example. Feed ingredients marketed in fall/winter tend to have higher moisture than those marketed in summer. Ingredients with low moisture generate more dust, lead to increased finished feed product loss, production costs and equipment degradation.
Grinding, blending and physical manipulation of feed and feed ingredients in the feed mixing and pellet-making process can lead to moisture loss. Studies have found that producers typically lose anywhere from 0.85%-2% moisture. Nutritionists set specific moisture specifications to support the delivery of the required nutrient for efficient animal growth. Usually, these specs are between 12%-14%. But feed arriving at the farm often has a moisture content below 11%. Effective moisture management reduces shrink and can potentially increase mill output by 3% without requiring an additional volume of raw materials.
Moisture, food, moderate temperature and oxygen all facilitate mold and bacterial growth. All of which are supplied during feed mixing. As expected, high moisture can lead to mold and bacterial growth, but mold and bacteria can also become a problem at low and optimal moisture levels. Within the feed matrix, water can either be free or retained. Free water, more commonly referred to as Aw or available water, is easily used by microbial contaminates in feed, such as mold and bacteria.
Moisture Aids the Pellet-Making Process
Moisture is essential to diets and is critical in the pelleting-making process. Adequate moisture supports the binding of feed particles, gelatinization, pellet quality, mill energy consumption and profitability. High moisture can cause “plug-ups” and reduced throughput within the mill, leading to heightened energy consumption and excessive microbial growth. In contrast, low feed moisture results in brittle pellets that lead to increased fines and poor feed utilization on the farm.
Moisture management is fundamental to producer profitability. Even distribution and absorption of moisture prevent uncontrolled microbial load growth, supporting pellet quality and feed utilization while reducing production process loss and shrink. Moisture is a significant factor in determining high-quality pellets. To protect feed form, producers must ensure that moisture absorption occurs uniformly.
In broilers, evidence supports that improved physical feed quality maximizes FCR, reduces mortality, improves animal yields and helps manage excess feed costs.
Maxi-Mil Supports the Animal Feed Mill
Feed milling technology such as milling efficiency aid, Maxi-Mil, reduces the surface tension of water, increasing its ability to penetrate feed and promoting proper moisture retention. Maxi-mil gives producers the power to achieve moisture targets and protect against feed spoilage from feed-source bacteria and molds.
Mill’s using Maxi-Mil improve PDI while simultaneously optimizing throughput and reducing shrink. Max-Mil is applied via an easy-to-use system and saves feed producers money. Anitox has conducted more than 150 trials and demonstrations globally and found that mills operating with Maxi-Mil run faster and longer while producing more, better-quality pellets. In addition, they experience inventory loss and lower energy consumption. As a result, feed producers balance quality, efficiency and profitability goals, with many improving PDI anywhere from 2%-8%, increasing throughput by 35% and reducing process loss by 1.5%.