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 Catfish feed formulation requires deep understanding of available and required feed ingredient. Unlike before, selection of ingredient for catfish feed must take into cognizance certain economic and biological factors based on environmental reality.

Various researches have shown that there are various feed ingredients that can be classified under same source of nutrition. Therefore selection of ingredient for your feed formulation should take cognizance of these factors as recommended in these articles.

Feed formulation for catfish must be cost effective, palatable and nutritious to meet the basic nutritional needs of the fishes. Also cost effectiveness of the feed should not be analyzed against the financial cost alone but due consideration should be given to environmental and health implication of such feed. Below are the factors you must consider as you select your catfish feed ingredient

  • COST: The main reason for the formulation of locally pelletized feed is to cut cost by making use of locally produced ingredient without compromising the quality. Hence it will not make much sense to compound the feed that is higher in cost than floating feed. Most of the floating feed in Nigeria market are well researched and formulated based on the nutritional require of catfish for the particular age of their life-cycle. Therefore the nutritional composition of this floating feed can guide a catfish farmer as per protein, energy, vitamin and other nutritional requirements for formulation of their feed.When selecting ingredient for each class of nutrition, cost as factor must be the major consideration. For instance a farmer can choose from alternative sources of animal protein available for catfish. Some of the alternative sources of animal protein include processed fish (72%, 69%, 65%, 62%, etc). There are also other alternatives like analog fish, local fish, poultry meal, feather meal, blood meal and meat meal. Original 72% fishmeal might be of superior quality but are not made in Nigeria. This means there are possibilities that 72% fishmeal might not be cost-effective because of the additional cost incurred in the process of importation. Also added to this is the fall of Naira against the Dollar. As a matter of fact, Fishmeal cannot be totally removed from Catfish feed but farmers can make use of good grade local fishmeal. However, in absence of Grade A local fish, 72% fishmeal can be used alongside other animal protein to reduce cost without compromising nutritional need of your fishes.
  • Age of your Fish: Lately it has been discovered that fish meal can be removed from catfish feed especially for fishes above six month. Poultry/feather meal will be a good substitute in such situation. Age of your fishes must be put into consideration when selecting ingredient to use for catfish feed formulation. Casual observation of floating feed nutritional composition shows that crude protein reduces as sizes of Fishes increase. This should also guide farmers that as their fishes increase in age, the use of certain imported materials can be substituted for local ingredient. Also, ingredient with high energy rate should be selected for fish as they advance in age. A farmer should choose maize or dough ahead of cassava flour as source of energy. However because of cost, I will recommend dough instead of maize
  • Nutritional Composition: As said earlier, the essence of feed formulation is to meet nutritional need of fishes at reduced cost without reducing the quality. Therefore, farmers should not just combine ingredient. Nutritional composition of available ingredient must be given due consideration. GNC is a good source of protein but the digestible protein in GNC is lower than that of soya meal. In fact soya meal will have been the best replacement for fishmeal but protein in soya is not wide enough to meet nutritional requirement of catfish. Therefore, it cannot replace fishmeal completely but can be used as support in order to reduce cost
  • Available Ingredient: At times, there could be short fall in supply of certain ingredients in the market. Farmers should not because of this short fall deny their catfishes of necessary nutrition. Few years ago there was scarcity of GNC which made majority of catfish farmer to settle for Benseed. Benseed has now become part and parcel of catfish feed especially in the absence of pure GNC. When the preferred ingredient is not available, the available ingredient automatically becomes desirable. Even when the most important ingredient in catfish feed is not available; farmers can still formulate their feed to meet the nutritional needs of their fishes with little adjustment in use of available ingredient.
  • Anti-nutrition in Ingredient: Certain plant protein are cheap but if not well processed, anti-nutrition element in them can lead to stunted growth or worst still mortality in catfish. For instance Soya beans is cheaper compared to processed soya (soya meal or full-fat soya) but if not well processed it will affect the growth of catfishes. Farmer should make the right choice between processed and non-processed ingredients based on the durability/shelve life of the ingredients.
  • The choice of ingredient: You should also take into consideration the number of days the pelletized feed will use before fully consumed by your fishes. If the pellet will be stored for a long time, certain ingredient should not be used. For instance bread waste can be used as substitute for maize but when used, it must be consumed within few days. Bread as an alternative source of energy ingredient cannot be used for commercial pelletized sinking feed.
  • Palatability: Fishes can differentiate between bitter and sweet taste. Some ingredients are nutritious but because they are not tasty, fishes may not eat as much as they need. Benseed is as rich as GNC but fishes consume feed made with GNC better than Benseed. Palatability of ingredient should also be given due consideration.
  • Dynamism of Ingredient: Some ingredients fall into two to three classes of nutrition. Such ingredients are preferred above similar ingredients that fall under the same class of nutrition. Soya meal falls under this category of ingredient. It has up to 48 percent crude protein, some level of fat and oil, depending on how it’s processed, as well as high level of energy.
  • Replacability: Does a particular ingredient have a good substitute? If not, such ingredient cannot be avoided in catfish feed. As said earlier, fishmeal is an important ingredient in catfish feed. It cannot be easily replaced except your fishes are above 6 months. When next you want to compound feed for your fishes, remember how important some ingredient can be.
  •  Suitable Substitute: Use of some feed additives is not negotiable. Certain  amino acids and essential vitamins not found in sufficient quantity in feed ingredients must be provided in synthetic form. Methionine, Lysine, Fish Premix and other vitamins are not negotiable in catfish feed