The Bellwether: Animal feed as an early indicator of global economic trends

  • What does animal feed tell us about the world's economic health? Quite a lot, says Alltech Chief Innovation Officer Aidan Connolly.
In the Middle Ages, farmers would put a bell around the neck of the lead ram (a wether) in a flock of sheep. The movements of the flock could be tracked by hearing the bell, even if the flock was not in sight. More than 1000 years later, we still use the term ‘bellwether’ to refer to an indicator or a predictor of something.
 
Drawn on data from 130 countries, including visits to more than 30,000 feed mills, Alltech’s annual Global Feed Survey (GFS) report has become a bellwether of global economic trends, sometimes flagging changes before other indicators do. The market for animal feed has a direct impact on food prices, making the relative health of the global feed industry an interesting proxy for the health of the agricultural sector and by extension the overall global economy. Although the U.S. and China are the two biggest markets, and there are lots of interesting nuggets from around the world, this year the big stories from the GFS are found in the Southern Hemisphere.