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Least Cost Feed Formulation for Poultry

Prof. Dr. Talat Naseer Pasha
Dean, Faculty of Animal Production and Technology
University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Lahore-54000


In past, producers balanced rations by hand calculation, often using long tedious trial-and –error methods. But in the past two decades, industries have adapted computers to every conceivable task, and the feed industry is no exception. Today, computers are used to formulate rations utilizing a wide variety of feed. However, one must realize that this new computerized technology is a tool, which must be used wisely based on certain principles.

Feed formulation is a process by which different feed ingredients are combined in a proportion necessary to provide the bird with proper amount of nutrients needed at a particular age/stage of production. It requires the knowledge about nutrients, feedstuffs and nutritional requirement of the birds in the development of nutritionally adequate rations that will be eaten in sufficient amounts to provide the level of production at a reasonable cost. The ration should be palatable and will not cause any serious digestive disturbance or toxic effects to the birds.

Different classes of birds have different requirements for energy (carbohydrates and fats), proteins (amino acids), minerals and vitamins in order to maintain its various functions like growth, reproduction and egg production. Formulation of rations for poultry emphasizes the use of linear programming using a computer to derive the least-cost ration.

Important Considerations in Feed Formulation

Ration (or feed) formulation does not merely involve mathematical calculations to meet the requirement of the birds, since the result of the calculation may turn out to be impractical and not ideal for feeding of poultry. An experienced animal nutritionist, therefore, needs to evaluate the feed formulation before it can be given to the birds. Factors to be considered in making good feed formulations are:

Acceptability to the birds

The ration being formulated has to be palatable enough to stimulate intake by the birds. Feed refused by the birds is worthless, since feed has to be consumed and utilized by birds to serve its purpose.


The nutrients in the feed have to be digested and released into the gastrointestinal tract to be utilized by the birds. Rations with high fiber content cannot be tolerated by poultry.


The requirement of the birds can be met through several combinations of feed ingredients. However, when the cost of these ingredients are considered, there can only be one least-cost formulation. The least-cost ration should ensure that requirements of the birds are met and the desired objectives are achieved.

Presence of anti-nutritional factors and toxins

The presence of anti-nutritional factors in the feed, such as anti-trypsin factor in soybean meal, affects the digestion of some nutrients by making them unavailable to the animal. Some feed ingredients may also contain toxic substances, which may be detrimental to the animal when given in excessive amounts. The inclusion of these feed ingredients should therefore be limited or eliminated from the formulation.

Other factors that should be considered in feed formulation are texture, moisture and the processing the feed has to undergo.

Merhods of Formulating Rations

There are several methods in formulating rations. All of them have the same objectives of providing the required balanced nutrients at the least possible cost.

Trial-and-error Method

This is the most popular method of formulating rations for poultry. As the name implies, the formulation is manipulated until the nutrient requirements of the birds are met. This method makes possible the formulation of a ration that meets all the nutrient requirements of the birds.

Linear Programming (LP)

This is a method of determining the least-cost combination of ingredients using a series of mathematical equations. There are many possible solutions to each series of equations, but when the factor of cost is applied, there can only be one least cost combination.

An electronic computer is capable of making thousands of calculations in a very short time. However, the machine is incapable of correcting errors resulting from incorrect data and errors in setting up of the program. Therefore, the resultant rations obtained from linear programming will be no better than the information and values which are entered into the programming.


Before using the LP approach to ration formulation, the user should be familiar with the LP program or software package to be used. Numerous companies market computer software for feed formulation. The software varies from very simple and straight-forward to very complex packages intended for large feed manufacturers. The latter package include applications for formula costing, inventory control, control of usage of ingredients in limited availability, production of feed tags, etc. Ration formulation software may be generalized so that it can be made applicable to all species of animals or it may be designed with the unique requirements of specific species such as poultry, dairy cattle, etc. When the software has been designed for a certain species, it may incorporate tables of nutrient requirements and tables of typical feedstuffs and their nutrient values. This can save user time, but it does not mean that the software will run itself without judgment of user. No one had yet developed software that will anticipate all the conditions under which livestock & poultry will fed. Computers are not able to assess all aspects of ingredient quality, environment and management. The judgment of the producer and formulator must be imposed on the computer software. Look for the freedom to make changes as needed. There is certain information and data entered into the computer and are generally created in steps as follows:

Available feed ingredients

It is necessary that all the available ingredients are listed along with the unit cost, as long as the number does not exceed some practical figure which the machine is capable of handling.

Nutrient composition of feed ingredients

Tables of feed composition using average or typical values may be used but chemical analysis of a representative sample should be used if available.

Ration specifications

This generally represents the nutrient requirements and ingredient limits. In each case, the formulator specifies either a lower limit and/or an upper limit for each item.


After providing all the necessary information, the computer produces formulas that will meet the desired specifications at the lowest possible cost. However, the formula should be feasible, both from a mathematical standpoint and from a nutritional standpoint. The feedstuff mixture should be acceptable to the birds for which it is intended.

Suggested nutrient specifications of rations for different classes of poultry

Nutrient Specifications of Broiler Rations

Description Broiler Starter Broiler Finisher
ME (KCal/kg) 2800 2900
CP, % 20.0 18.5
CF (max), % 5 5
Ca, % 0.9 0.9
P (available), % 0.42 0.38
L.A., % 0.8 0.7
Lysine, % 1 0.96
Methionine, % 0.50 0.48
Meth+Cyst, % 0.83 0.77


Nutrient Specifications of Layer Rations

Description Chick Starter Layer Grower Layer Mesh
ME (KCal/kg) 2800 2800 2750
CP, % 17.5 16 17
CF (max), % 5 5 5
Ca, % 1 1 3.6
P (available), % 0.47 0.40 0.40
L.A., % 0.8 1.3 0.8
Lysine, % 1 0.7 0.76
Methionine, % 0.4 0.33 0.35
Meth+Cyst, % 0.67 0.58 0.60


Nutrient Specifications of Broiler Breeder Rations

Description Breeder Starter Breeder Grower Breeder Layer
ME (KCal/kg) 2800 2800 2800
CP, % 18.5 16 16
CF (max), % 4.5 4 4
Ca, % 0.9 0.95 3.2
P (available), % 0.45 0.40 0.40
L.A., % 0.7 1.0 1.2
Lysine, % 1 0.76 0.78
Methionine, % 0.45 0.36 0.38
Meth+Cyst, % 0.74 0.60 0.62


Maximum Inclusion Limits of Various Feed Ingredients

Feed Stuff Broiler
Corn 20 25 20 25 30
Rice tips 50 50 50 50 50
Wheat 20 30 20 30 25
Sorghum 5-7 7 6 10 7
Rice Polishing 10 -12 10 -15 10 10 -15 10 -15
Soybean meal 20 20 20 10 15
Canola meal 5-10 5-10 5-7 5-10 10
Rape seed meal 6 5 7 6 5
Guar meal 4 4 4 4 4
Sunflower meal 2 - 3 2 - 3 2 - 3 5 - 7 5 - 7
Corn gluten meal 30% 2 2 3 3 - 5 3
Corn gluten meal 60 % 1 1 2 2 2
Cotton seed meal 2 2 3 3 3
Sesame meal 5 5 5 5 5
Fish meal 2 - 5 2 - 5 2 - 5 2 - 5 2 - 5
Poultry by-product meal 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2 2 - 3 1 - 3
Blood meal 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2
Tallow 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2
Vegetable oil 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2


This article has previously been published in THE VETERINARY NEWS & VIEWS [WEEKLY] and on World Veterinary Association web site (dated Sep 25, 2003 - 04:03 PM).


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