Food security is a key agenda for
many countries at present. Rising global population, combined
with sustainability issues and competition from non-food crops,
has placed the issue at the forefront of political
Since 2004 prices and demand for
most grains has increased, yet production has been unable to
keep pace. The last five years has seen a series of extreme
weather events in major food-producing regions, and sharp rises
in fertiliser costs, ensure that international food prices have
topped unprecedented levels.
Last year feed and food grains were
hit particularly hard by poor weather: Russia saw its worst
drought for 50 years, while water-strapped Australia was
inundated by heavy rains downgrading the countrys
Letting their food go down: cows are one of the
many ruminant animals that benefit from
magnesia-rich feed additives, preventing
magnesium deficiency that can lead to grass staggers.
Volatile grain prices have pinched the margins of animal
protein producers, with poultry feed in particular having a
sharp effect on the price of eggs and meat. In China, food
price inflation was reported to be at 10% in October 2010.
However, perhaps less reported than
grain supply and prices is the influence of animal feed
minerals on the meat and dairy market. Although a number of
industrial minerals are well documented for their fertiliser
applications in the agricultural sector, more still are used in
animal feed markets either as a source of nutrition or in the
application of the feed itself.
Nutritional minerals in animal feed
include limestone (calcium source), magnesia (for magnesium),
phosphates (phosphorous source) and salt (for sodium), among
others (see panel).
Livestock animals with two stomachs
(ruminants) have historically been the largest consumers of
magnesia-based feeds. One of the primary reasons is because of
magnesiums ability to prevent a condition known as grass
tetany, or grass staggers.
Grass tetany is a disorder
characterised by involuntary spasms of the muscles in cattle
brought on by a deficiency of calcium and magnesium. It arises
from cattle consuming fast-growing spring grasses high in
nitrogen while being inherently low in magnesium and calcium.
Both MgO and MgSO4 can be used to provide
supplemental magnesium to dairy and beef cattle.
Figure 1: World feed production (m. tpa)
Source: Feed International
US magnesia munch
One of the largest producers of agricultural magnesia is
USA-based Premier Magnesia LLC (formerly Premier Chemicals),
which produces caustic calcined magnesia (CCM) for the animal
feed industry under the trade name Magox¨. Premier offers
three Magox products: Feed Grade, Feed Grade 100 and Magox 93
The company mines and processes
these grades at its facility in Gabbs, Nevada, manufacturing
the CCM using three Herreshoff furnaces continuous,
multiple hearth kilns which utilise natural gas to prevent
dioxin contamination. Dioxins often result from the use of
furnaces that burn dirtier fossil fuels, such as
Quality and safety in the food
chain have gained additional importance in recent years. To
address these key issues, the American Feed Industry
Association (AFIA) has implemented a Safe Feed/Safe Food
certification programme that Premiers Gabbs facility
obtained in 2009.
The purpose of the AFIA programme
is to establish and promote generally accepted food
safety guidelines to ensure continuous improvement in the
delivery of a safe and wholesome feed supply that promotes the
growth and care of animals. The programme requires a
third party to inspect feed producers facilities
regularly. In addition, producers must provide detailed written
documentation to verify compliance with the Safe Feed/Safe Food
Compliance to the programme is
beneficial for US feed producers, whose minerals are in
many cases crucial to the health of numerous livestock
animals. But recent high prices have forced some farmers to
lower their minerals use, according to producers.
Many dairy and beef farmers
cut back on their mineral feed supplements when prices
increased in 2008, and they have continued at these lower
nutrient levels in many cases or looked at alternative lower
cost supplements, Dave Johnson, marketing manager at
USA-based Premier Magnesia LLC, told IM.
The reasons for price increases range from higher production
costs to freight and energy, but in the case of CCM it is also
competition with the steel industry a significant consumer
of magnesia-based refractory bricks and linings that has
contributed to cost margins.
It is expected that as the
steel market grows so too will the demand for magnesia
worldwide, Johnson explained.
In 2008 Premier completed the
installation of a third Herreshoff furnace at its
magnesite-brucite Gabbs facility, increasing capacity for CCM
and Mg(OH)2 slurry. Prior to this increase, Premier
produced 150,000 tpa of CCM and Mg(OH)2 at the Gabbs
site. The company says its additional capacity will allow it to
supply any increased demand from its markets.
Premiers primary market for
animal feed is the USA. With continuing restrictions on export
licenses from China and increasing costs for imported magnesite
and ocean freight, Premier believes US suppliers will gain an
advantage in the domestic market.
In terms of consumption, the US
animal feed market is expected to be flat in 2011 as dairy
farmers continue to be challenged by low milk prices, Premier
A number of dairies have
closed or consolidated. The heard size remains about the same
as 2010 as most of the cows were moved to other dairy
operations and not slaughtered, Johnson explained.
Figure 2: EU feeds by species (000s tpa)
Source: Feed International
Global feed demand
Feed production by commercial and industrial mills (for all
species) is estimated to have increased slightly in 2010, with
Feed International reporting a demand upswing in H1
2010 followed by uncertainty in the second half of the year.
The publication put world feed production at 717.6m. tonnes in
2010, a slight increase on 2009s output which totalled
Promising dairy markets were
observed in Europe although it was noted that milk production
had increased relative to the amount of feed used. In Latin
America, upswings were observed for chicken and hen feed in
addition to increases in cattle and pig markets. In Asia,
meanwhile, poultry and aquaculture proved to be the largest
feed markets for countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam.
Feed International, in its
World Feed Panorama for 2010, said that although global feed
production increased last year it was relatively small compared
to the recovery initially expected. One explanation is the
price of grain feed which gained in H2 reducing
farmers confidence in expanding livestock numbers.
The outlook for this year is volatile at present and will
probably depend on future grain and mineral feed prices.
Considering the issue of food security, however, any dips in
feed production are likely to be short-term: the worlds
population needs food, and it is not getting any smaller.
Figure 3: World feed production by region (718m.
Source: Feed International
Animal feed: nutritional minerals
Limestone: a primary source of calcium, which
strengthens bones to prevent rickets. It also strengthens
eggshells and increases egg production in chickens. Stronger
shells equates to fewer breakages and greater profitability.
Oyster shells are also used in some countries as an alternative
calcined magnesia is commonly used to add magnesium to feed,
and can come in the form of a fine powder or incorporated into
lick-blocks. Magnesium is crucial to the health of ruminant
livestock and especially for grazing and lactating animals
during spring and autumn. During these periods there is a risk
of magnesium deficiency, which can lead to tetany or grass
staggers. A contributing factor is when animals feed on fast
growing new grass grown with nitrogen fertilisers.
supplied in a variety of products with dicalcium phosphate
being one of the most popular forms. Phosphorous, important for
strong bones and a healthy metabolism, is vastly consumed by
poultry and pigs.
for all animals, providing an extra source of sodium. Main
consumers are cattle and chickens.
Other minerals: trace elements including cobalt, copper,
iodine, iron oxide, selenium and zinc are also staple animal
feed minerals, although generally used in smaller quantities
than those discussed above.