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Feed Formulation Software

Dr Ioannis Mavromichalis
I am looking for a feed formulation programme! No, this is not a 'wanted' advertisement, but an invitation to discuss what is out there and what best suits everyone. So, let me start by sharing my own experiences and frustrations, so far.

I am looking for a feed formulation programme! No, this is not a 'wanted' advertisement, but an invitation to discuss what is out there and what best suits everyone. So, let me start by sharing my own experiences and frustrations, so far.

In my previous work for Provimi, I have been exposed to both big names in the market, namely, Format and Brill. They are both very powerful and quite complex. Although they both do the job, one is extremely sophisticated, the other very 'click' intensive. I found them at their best when a dedicated person was assigned to them exclusively. So, in my opinion they are most suited for feed plants. I might be wrong but this is my impression!

For my new role, as a consulting nutritionist, I find my needs are less, but more 'user' friendly, whereas presentation of the final printout is of paramount importance. Flexibility is also a must as the needs of a customer in Poland are not the same for a customer in Canada!

So far, I have checked the demos of Optimix (Brazil) and Feedsoft (USA). One is full of bugs and crashed several times, which reminded me why I moved away from a Windows-based PC to a Mac! The other is lacking basic functions, like the ability to automatically create a partial premix and keep the new formula as a product and as an ingredient!

During Eurotier, I was presented with Bestmix, which might be the one. It is complicated and flexible enough, and quite presentable. Yet, there is no demo and while the people at the booth were kind enough to give us an extensive live demo, I am reluctant to fork out a big chunk of money sight-unseen! Yes, it is quite expensive...

Of course, one can do a whole lot of formulation with Excel, which contains a special add-on function for least-cost optimisation. It is not as flexible, of course, and I might have to go back studying Visual Basic (a language of computer programming). Which I might do as well, because I don't feel I have many viable options.

So, the question now becomes 'what are your experiences?' How do you formulate your own diets, and if you don't who is doing this for you and what are they using?

2 comments

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    Asad Sophie

    www.pigprogress.net/news/feed-formulation
    Dr. Ioannis Mavromichalis 24/11/08

    As a designer & developer of feed formulation software I found your comments candid and quite interesting.

    A feed formulation programme that "best suits everyone" -no such thing!! You are searching for El-Derado!

    However you may be able to identify programs which are better suited for particular categories of users eg ( feedmillers,consulting nutritionist, students,researchers,homemixers and so on)

    I will limit my comments to software meant for feedmillers, integrators, homemixers in the poultry industry only, with whom i am a bit familiar.
    My perspective is from a software developers's side.

    In a commercial setting the basic aim of formulation is to enable one to manufacture rations which produce 'good' results from the animal at acceptable costs.

    The software package used should also enhance the productivity of the user/nutritionist so that in addition to the quality and cost, the formulation/reformulation of rations is done timely and quickly with minimum effort.
    This capability is extremely important in commercial organisations where:
    -a delay in needed reformulation results in lost oppurtunity costs
    -the user has responsibilites other than just formulation
    -fast turn-over of personnel with varying expertise of formulation software

    So the overriding criteria used for choosing among feedformulation programs is or should be: "Can I formulate better & faster (to the best of my ability) using this one than with another"?

    However, in practise, selection of a suitable program is influenced by other factors too which are sometimes given more weightage. For instance ; prettier & more flexible output, portable & allways available ( even when components of the computer system are down), able to interface with other computerised systems in the workplace, have some special additional features (e.g. multiblending, stochastic formulation, parametrics), and offcourse the cost of the software.
    *{ pretty output; cost }

    Hence the plethora of feed formulation programs available to choose from to suit all tastes and different type of users!

    Most people assume that they will formulate equally well using any leastcost software; after all its the same artist :-) -this in my opinion is a fallacy.

    My experience in designing,developing application software and sometimes having to use my own creations is that the program should:

    -Be Easy to use -Easy to comprehend -have short learning curve
    These are of paramount importance. Human nature always prefers the simple over the complex. By simple is meant simple to the particular user community.
    Also Simple things usually work whereas complex ones not so often.
    *{ extremely sophisticated; crashes }


    -Require Minimum Physical/mental effort to interact with & navigate through
    This one is rather subtle. Do not cause mental anguish for the user. Minimize decisions user has to make; minimize hand movements; minimize clicks_at_specific_locations;no horizontal panning of screen; avoid vertical scrolling, double clicking etc. Ideally just One finger on the Enter Key with slight diversion to the numeric keypad when needed!
    *{ click intensive }

    -Have Fast response.
    In these days with fast processors, gigabytes of memory and fast harddisks this shouldn't be a problem. But you may be suprised!

    -Need not have all the features the user may desire as long as the necessary range of functions which enable the user to achieve the core purpose of the program (in our case the best possible feed in min time & effort) are present. Lesser needed or less often used capabilities may be ignored specially if some work-around is available. For example a sum of ingredients limit capability. Hint -define a nutrient called say "IngrSum" which is 100% for ingredients of interest & zero for others & then limit that nutrient!
    *{ concentrates }


    -have ability to exchange results & data with external programs to facilitate any pre or post processing required that is not inbuilt. Most users now a days are quite computer savvy and capable of using spreadsheet, word processing and graphical software. You can bet they will want to do some thing extra that the formulation program isn't doing. Make it easier for them.

    -Keeps bells, whistles & frills to a minimum. It may help to make a first sale but not a cult following. Users are only interested in getting their real-world problem solved with the minimum of hassle not in a program's beauty or sophistication per se. These extra frills sometimes become an irritant in getting the real work done.


    So what are my suggestions for you Dr. Mavromichalis?

    1) Take a look at WinFeed by efgsoftware South Africa (www.efgsoftware.com).
    Although like many others of its genre it breaks the cardinal rule for software development that old timers like me were taught i.e. the KISS rule
    (Keep It Simple Stupid), it may however best suit your needs as a Consultant at an affordable price.
    I have never used the program myself, just seen the demo, but its worth looking into if you haven't done it already. Feature wise it seems adequate for your purpose -how it performs I have no idea.

    2) Don't waste your time writing a formulation program using Excel. You will be suprised how little a portion of the total code of any feedformulation program is for the least-cost calculations. The overwhelming part of the code is always for I/O,user interface and other booking keeping & reporting needs. It will be a messy affair with Excel.

    Ofcourse as i always brag, you will be able to formulate better using my feedformulation program than with any other program, but alas its not for you!
    To benefit from it you have to be mortally afraid of computers and be quite forgiving to its idiosyncranies.

    Its a WALL-E among EVEs, born when Tandon 5-1/4" floppy drives croaked & groaned while the cpu cranked away at 4.77 MHz with a imbecile's memory of 256k and DOS2.1 ruled the PC world.


    AsadSophie@hotmail.com

    *{reference your comments}

    [Disclaimer: I have no cell-phone, no watch and don't use a spell-checker ;-) ]

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    olatunde tomi

    I use the software from a friend ( programer) NUTX, now has a newer edition NUTRISOLVER. www.mrssoft.com

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