We have been looking for a new feed blend for our soy free layer ration this year. Including soy really simplifies the task of fortifying protein levels, but there’s enough uncertainty about the health implications of high soy diets to convince us to look for alternatives. Like a lot of food debates, I’ve found suspect claims in both the pro-soy and anti-soy camps, so my suspicious mind thinks that both sides are exaggerating and that a moderate amount of soy is fine for most people. But because soy is included in just about every packaged item in the grocery store, the contemporary American diet can not be considered moderate in any sense. Also, in our family we have one person with soy allergies so we have an additional incentive to eliminate it wherever possible.
I wanted to find a new feed recipe for a couple of reasons. Last year I noted that the laying hen production was very low, so much so that I lost a lot of money on eggs. Talking with other farmers, I found a unanimous opinion that I needed to work with a different organic feed mill to get a better feed ration. Nobody could say exactly why one ration was superior, but consensus centered on better protein levels and using superior Fertrell minerals.
The other reason was more about feeding our animals with locally produced feeds. Our previous soy free mix depended on Organic Rice Bran for its protein boost. We are not in a rice-producing region, so this rice is getting shipped in from the West Coast. The new ration gets most of its protein from peas. Peas are a reliable crop in Upstate NY and most years the feed mill is able to source its organic peas from NY farms. I was never comfortable with depending on feed from thousands of miles away so I was eager to find an alternative. We are focused on local food production, so it makes sense that the local concept applies both upstream and downstream from our farm.
The only negative to switching feed mills is that now I have to drive two and a half hours each way instead of only twenty minutes. Hauling four one-ton super sacks pushes the truck to its limits (about 19,000 lbs on the scales). My hope is that if I can get substantially better egg production from the new feed I will be able to convince my local mill to shift to a pea-based recipe.