Pheasant feed, just like sausages, come a wide range of qualities, and like many things in life, you get what you pay for. But a good feed’s importance can’t be overemphasized: it directly contributes to our birds’ performance in the hunt. That’s why MacFarlane Pheasants, America’s largest pheasant farm, goes the extra mile in purchasing and formulating the highest quality feed for our pheasants and partridges. It’s taken us time to learn to ask the right questions, and below are the ones we believe you should be asking of your feed provider as well.
The nature of the feed industry is that they often use byproducts. Those byproducts run the gamut, from soybean meal (the high-protein leftovers after beans are pressed for oil) to distillers grain, a byproduct of ethanol that is terrible for pheasants because of its high levels of toxins and denatured proteins. Other common additives include cereal fines, the fine particles left over after cereal production, and even bakery byproducts like cracker particles. They also vary from region to region. For example, in the western part of the country you’ll often find canola meal, which our birds have trouble with digestibility. The most important question you can ask your feed provider is: What makes up my birds’ feed? Big mills may refuse, but smaller mills will often be glad to discuss what’s inside.
The next question you should ask is: Can I speak to your nutritionist? This is absolutely necessary as the limit for toxins, while perfectly fine for chickens and turkeys, can be right on the edge of what can be detrimental to pheasants. Asking to speak to the on-site nutritionist can give you hard answers on what the profile of your feed looks like, how well they’re testing ingredients, and how close they’re coming to the edge with nutrition. At MacFarlane Pheasants, we have our own company nutritionist ensure that our pheasants continue to receive the highest quality feed. It’s too important not to.
Finally, one of the best questions to ask is: Are you “least-costing”? This is the process by which a mill will switch out ingredients based on availability and price, and it’s important to ask even if nothing seems to have changed. The industry has gone high-tech, and computers often make the decisions of what goes into the feed, switching out those things that are cheaper without notifying you or changing the price. Again, this can be great for their bottom line, but not for the health of your pheasants. That’s why we’ve formulated our own feed, specially milled to our own rigorous demands. When it’s our formula, mills don’t have permission to fiddle with it.
At MacFarlane, we’ve been raising pheasants for almost a hundred years. We know what works with our birds, which have become industry leaders in their wildness and thrilling hunts. In our feed and our pheasants you’ll never find dry distillers grains, cereal fines, canola meal, or soy flour. It’s more expensive, but it’s worth it. “We look at the feed as a good investment,’” says Brad Lillie, MacFarlane’s financial officer. “Our goal is to produce the highest quality game birds in the industry. If we cut corners, we’re working against what we’re trying to accomplish.”