WESTERN Australia’s animal-feed sector is undergoing significant expansion as local demand for rations and pellets builds in Australia’s major grain-growing state.
As one of the world’s major producers and exporters of lupins, oats, wheat, barley, and canola, WA’s opportunities to value-add them are coming first and foremost from its beef, dairy, pig, poultry and sheep sectors.
Industry sources have said the developments are promoting more choice and price competition for WA’s intensive and supplementary feeders, and offering grain growers the chance to participate in a domestic rather than export-focused supply chain.
Lupins generally account for 25-33pc of ruminant pellets, and their competitive domestic pricing due to bumper WA crops in recent years has helped the pulse’s use in WA secure its place as a key inclusion in more sophisticated animal diets.
While wheat and barley form the backbone of monogastric rations, Pivotal Point Strategic Directions principal consultant Mark Narustrang said lupins were the go-to for sheep.
“For ruminant mills, lupins are generally king in WA,” Mr Narustrang said.
Mr Narustrang said lupins’ protein content of around 35 percent, compared with field peas in the 20s, was but one of its attributes.
“Lupin has the fibrous shell, quite a decent level of energy, and protein; it’s a power-packed little unit.”
WA exports around 90pc of its total grain production, and Mr Narustrang said building domestic demand for lupins as animal feed made off farm, and in niche human-consumption markets, could well lift demand.
“When soybean meal is cheap, lupins struggle to find a home in export, and that’s where domestic demand can come in.”
WA’s cereals are also generally low in protein, which the lupin profile helps to counter in ration formulations.
Scope for growth in pellet demand
As WA grapples with the possibility that it might lose the live export avenue for its cast-for-age Merino ewes and wethers, some industry sources see WA’s demand for finishing feed increase if the export gate closes.
However, Mr Narustrang does not believe all of WA’s flock is heading for intensive or supplementary feeding outside the constraints of the typical annual rainfall pattern.
“We have a notorious six-month drought every year; in a typical summer, it doesn’t rain from November to April, and growers start running out of things to feed animals.”
While demand for feed made by WA’s four major millers (see below) is significant, Mr Narustrang said the on-farm mix was far from dead.
“Some growers make their own shandy with oats and lupins, and off grades of what they might have on farm; whatever works.
“The question is whether they are looking for sustenance for their sheep, or if they are looking to build nutrition.
“You find the more sophisticated sheep farmers like pellets, while other farmers are croppers and run sheep; it depends on how they do that value equation.”
Likewise, Patmore Feeds director Dean Toovey said while some farmers were happy to trail out lupins to their sheep over the summer months to supplement roughage from stubble, others were looking for increased efficiency from pellets.
“Generally, in talking to people, you hear they are feeding half the pellets that they would grain; there’s that sort of efficiency,” Mr Toovey said.
Pellets are typically also trail fed in stubble paddocks over summer, and Mr Toovey said demand for them reflected the impact of more efficient headers which leave less grain for sheep to clear up once the machine leaves the paddock.
“Stubbles aren’t what they used to be; headers are getting off a lot more than they used to.”
Minor role in beef rations
Tamworth-based Integrated Animal Production nutritionist Rob Lawrence said inclusion rates for cracked lupins in WA beef rations were generally around 8-12pc of feedlot rations including straw, but down to 6pc for ones that get additional protein from hay instead of straw.
“If people have a roller mill to put wheat, barley and triticale through, they can crack lupins,” Mr Lawrence said.
Canola meal, which is available in WA from mechanical crushing, has additional attributes that meal made through solvent extraction does not, and Mr Lawrence said it was therefore a popular ready-made inclusion that competes with lupins in beef rations.
“Some people choose to just get the meal because…it comes with a bit of oil left in it that you don’t get in the east.”
As part of its vertically integrated system, Harvest Road’s Koojan Park feedlot at Moora is using cracked lupins in the mix.
WA grows most of its lupins in the Geraldton and Kwinana North zones, and Mr Narustrang said Koojan Park’s location at Moora made it ideally suited to value-add the pulse.
“They’re definitely in lupin country.”
Following is a summary of major feedmill developments under way in WA:
NewCo on drawing board
The NewCo joint venture involving Premium Grain Handlers-affiliate Thompson and Redwood and major WA pork producer Westpork is building a new mill at Bullsbrook, in Perth’s outer north.
It is expected to produce around 235,000t of feed per annum when at capacity, with commissioning likely in 2025.
The site will add to Thompson and Redwood’s existing capacity, and mill feed for Westpork.
The Bullsbrook site is also expected to have considerable additional capacity to service other customers.
As well as being a significant supplier to intensive animal-feeding industries, Thompson and Redwood also sells into the equine market across Australia.
Milne Feeds expanding
Milne Feeds this year received a $5-million grant from the WA Government to expand its Welshpool site in inner south-east Perth.
The company this week declined to provide details of this expansion, but industry talk suggests its capacity will double from around 150,000t per annum at present.
Patmore Feeds settled in
The newcomer to the prepared feed landscape in WA is Patmore Feeds, which opened last year south-west of Cuballing.
It is building up to an annual production of 180,000t, and primarily produces pellets for the sheep industry.
Patmore Feeds is also producing a vegetarian ration for poultry.
The GWF-owned Wesfeeds mill at Hope Valley Road, Naval Base, a coastal suburb of southern Perth, is currently being commissioned in a process which industry sources said has taken longer than expected due to significant teething problems.
When plans for the new mill were announced, commissioning and completion was expected in the second half of 2022.
Once fully operational, the mill will assume capacity currently filled by Wesfeeds’ existing plant at Bentley in Perth’s inner south-east, which is expected to be decommissioned.
The new mill will see Wesfeeds annual production double to around 300,000t by 2030.
Grain Central understands Wesfeeds makes pig and poultry feed only, and is currently helping to fill poultry demand previously covered by Ingham’s mill at Wanneroo in Perth’s northern suburbs.
Ingham’s closed its Wanneroo mill last financial year, reportedly due to its inability to gain approval to expand mill capacity at the site.
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