Though prices of raw materials have fallen from last year’s high levels, many in the shooting world contend feed suppliers have failed to pass on savings to the customer.

Established manufacturers argue their higher-priced feeds offer better results due to being correctly formulation for game birds. They also argue this quality is not matched by cheaper products on the market.

Feed manufacturers are advising game farmers and keepers to scrutinise declaration labels and check directly with suppliers that essential trace elements are included in the correct form.

Richard Leach of Keepers Choice, said: “Manufacturers with no track record are entering the game feed industry and undercutting the established brands by producing cheap, low-grade feed.”

He added: “Estates are putting pressure on keepers to save money, so these lower-grade feeds are tempting. This is a false economy as the birds will not develop as well.”

Mr Leach explained some suppliers are cutting corners by using essential trace elements in a crude mineral form as opposed to a refined biological form: “Selenium is a good example. In crude form it is readily available to the bird at only 40% of the inclusion level. Yet in refined form, derived, for instance, from natural yeast, this rises to 80% and more.”

Some game farmers feel the increased availability of cheap low-grade feed is partly due to established suppliers being too expensive, however.

Kevin Adamson of Associated Business Agriculture, which manufactures Sportsman Game Feeds, said: “One of the main factors influencing the price of feed is the raw materials market, which has been subject to wild price swings. Feeds need to be formulated to a specific recipe – incorporating high levels of good quality protein and fish, which are essential to the health of birds.”

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation explained the grade of game feed is as significant as the cost: “Quality of game feed is certainly as important as price and wise keepers will always base their buying decisions on both. Mr Leach is an expert in this area, so his warning is no doubt timely. There are many keepers who feel that prices for the established brands could have come down more than they have since last year’s high, however. The best way for feed companies to sustain orders in a competitive market is to provide genuine value for money.”

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