Tuesday, October 17, 2017

18/10/2017: Economy in fish farming

by Peter Jessen, Technical Support Manager, Aller Aqua Group

In a modern world the laws of the jungle apply – those who can produce efficiently survive, whilst the rest languish

Management is about more than buying cheap and selling expensively. Of course you need to find the best price both when buying and selling goods, but it is just as important to optimise production. One must maximise output from the available resources, and remember that the lowest possible FCR is rarely the goal. Good growth can be just as profitable.

When selling feeds for professional aquaculture you are often involved in discussions about the right choice of feed and feeding strategy. Highlighted below you will find some of the aspects to consider.

Planning is crucial
Modern management is primarily focused on planning. Without planning you cannot run an efficient operation and will at some point find yourself not utilising your fish farming facilities in the best possible way - either due to lack of biomass in terms of numbers or size.

It is a bad situation when you are unable to feed the fish in an optimal way due to unfavourable conditions or overstocking. Large amounts of money have been lost when fish farmers have had to hold back fish. An even worse scenario is choosing to start feeding to colour the fish (for example - when producing trout); to later discover that you and many others have large red fish that there is no market for.

The fish must be produced in order for them to be ready when the market is – just in time – no sooner and no later. An increasing share of fish is sold to processing plants and supermarkets, which to an increasingly larger extent regulates the market.

This leads to the necessity of entering into long-term contracts with set delivery dates, and this again makes the processing-industry prefer suppliers who can supply a predetermined amount of fish at an agreed time. This is a challenge for some, and an opportunity for others. Fixed contracts are the first prerequisite for creating a production plan, aiming for a minimum of idle production time or overstocking.

Planning production of animals is obviously affected by biology and weather conditions, and thus to an extent uncertain. This increases the need for careful planning, makes the challenge bigger and makes it necessary to adapt plans continuously.

Feeding strategy
A crucial part of planning is determining the feeding strategy. A feeding strategy obviously encompasses a choice of feed, but more importantly you should decide on the amount of feed that should be used in all phases of production.

Good farming conditions are a basic requirement for animal welfare, although real life conditions do not always provide for this. The actual farming conditions should be considered when planning. The feeding strategy should aim to achieve the highest possible growth within the given parameters. A possible exception to this rule could be made in situations with limited access to feed, or when regulation demands minimal loss of nutrients.

These scenarios can make it relevant to focus on maximum utilisation of the feed, equaling a low feeding quota (FQ). However, most fish farmers, probably more than 90 percent, focus on optimum growth, equalling a high daily growth rate (DGR).

All fish feed producers offer recommended feeding tables, stating the recommended amount of feed which should be fed to healthy fish under good farming conditions. It is important to note that these feeding tables are recommendations. Varying farming conditions could mean that it is not possible to feed as much as stated in the feeding tables, whilst other conditions may enable you to feed much more than stated.

The recommended feeding tables often focus on good feed utilisation, i.e. a low feed conversion ratio (FCR). However, this rarely equals optimum growth. It is a well-known fact that intense feeding gives fast growth, but also a higher FCR. The high FCR is primarily due to the larger amount of wasted feed.

Most fish farmers are aware that very restrictive feeding also gives a higher FCR, which is due to the amount of feed utilised for the daily maintenance of the fish. The correlation between feeding intensity, growth and FCR can be seen in the well-known graph below.

Read the full article, HERE.

Visit the Aller Aqua website, HERE.

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