Bob Bell won’t say exactly how he does it, but his New Zealand farm produces the feed that fuels some of the world’s most valuable racehorses, and camels.
Fiber Fresh is no ordinary stockfeed.
It is effectively a high performance silage-style mix of lucerne, oats, Kentucky blue grass, cereals and other nutritional mineral and vitamin ingredients “cured” in 23-kilogram sealed bags.
For six months a year Fiber Fresh Feeds, based at Reporao in north eastern NZ’s Bay of Plenty, churns out about 30,000 bags a day filled with fermented forage, much of it destined for Thoroughbreds in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
Crops and pastures grown on the Bell family’s 1600 hectare farm are harvested green and put through a controlled fermentation process before going into plastic packs similar to those used to sell horticultural potting mixes.
We’re constantly proving our feeds do actually make a difference – it’s not just another forage
Established in 1984 to initially produce a high grade dairy calf feed, Fiber Fresh has become NZ’s biggest stockfeed exporter, and a key supplier to the domestic racehorse industry, including a host of NZ-bred Melbourne Cup gallopers.
After two decades of export success to Asia and the Middle East, where the brand is now a horse diet darling with Thoroughbred trainers and race clubs, Fiber Fresh last year cracked the Australian market, too.
It promises to enhance the performance and gastric health of horses on the race track, in equestrian and sporting competitions or simply steads kept by the pleasure horse fraternity.
Years of wrangling with quarantine authorities over biosecurity roadblocks ended with 60,000 bags sold in Australia in 2017.
“We expect Australia will grow into 1 million bag market within five years,” Mr Bell said.
“Australia horse owners spend almost $1 billion a year on feeds, and we know there’s a place for this product.”
It sells for about $28 a bag – higher priced than most chaff products, but not as expensive as some premium lines.
Wary of the risk of imitations, he is careful not to spell out exactly what the feed mix conditioning process involves, but notes it requires a good deal of science to promote the right beneficial bacteria and an ongoing self curing process after packing.
“We’re constantly proving our feeds do actually make a difference – it’s not just another forage,” Mr Bell said.
According to Massey University studies Fiber Fresh’s dietary benefits include considerably more slow release energy than traditional dry lucerne chaff, hydration advantages and the ability to counter the frequent gastric ulcer problems encountered by performance horses eating acidic, dry grain-based rations.
Massey researchers found the FiberProtect product delivered 20 per cent more dry matter intake, 20pc more energy intake, 32pc more retained energy and 22pc more digestible energy than comparable lucerne chaff.
We started with racehorse trainers in NZ and then really picked up momentum in Japan, where stockfeed imports are common
Replacing dry lucerne hay with FiberProtect effectively provided horses with about 3.6 litres or 8pc more water a day and reduced the loss of electrolytes and the potential for colic and gut health issues related to hydration.
Horses eating the cured stockfeed had double the level of retained protein than those fed dry lucerne chaff, while crude protein digestibility was 18pc higher.
“There’s been a lot of scrutiny of our feed’s performance enhancement qualities, but it didn’t take long to build up a following in the racehorse industry,” Mr Bell said.
“We started with racehorse trainers in NZ and then really picked up momentum in Japan, where stockfeed imports are common.”
Trainers elsewhere in Asia were quick to follow, with longstanding partnerships forged with the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Singapore Turf Club, and Thoroughbred trainers and breeders in the Middle East, where camel racing is also a significant market
Sectors of the Japanese dairy and Wagyu beef industries are also adding Fiber Fresh to feed rations, while the company’s calf products remain big sellers in NZ.
Mr Bell said a processing mill similar to the NZ plant may be on the cards in Australia in due course, but he noted long distances between state markets and big freight costs made the NZ supply base the most competitive option the time being.
Fiber Fresh has distribution warehouse bases in most states.
- Andrew Marshall travelled to New Zealand as a guest of NZ Trade and Enterprise.
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