The importance of feed cost can never be overemphasized as it continues to be and remains a key driver to any intensive livestock operation, including poultry. Feed costs represent 60 – 75 percent of operating cost and in some instances, this could be more. Taking cognizant of this cost factor, we as producers must do the right things right to ensure that they produce a competitive product in either eggs or meat. This includes feeding the correct feed to the right bird, at the right time, in the right quantity and quality.
To correctly feed to the right bird, it is important to note that there is a stark difference between egg and meat producers and thus, the two have different nutritional needs depending on their physiological stage of development and production system.
Doing the right thing means feeding the right feed to the correct bird such that meat producers (Broilers) and table egg producers (Layers) receive the appropriate feed. Compared to layers, broilers have a relatively short lifespan, which is typically between 32 – 42 days of age. Broilers have been extensively selected for fast growth rate and within this period will achieve the desired market weight within the time.
On the contrary, a layer chicken’s lifespan is relatively longer compared to broilers. It is usually up to 17-24 months for intensively raised birds whereas, free-range birds tend to stay in production for longer. Layers experience significantly a slower growth rate and it is paramount to ensure that they do not grow like a broiler and should not grow like a broiler. The slow growth enables the bird to fully develop their organs, skeleton to ensure productive egg laying in the long run.
What to feed?
For optimal growth and production, poultry feed should contain the following nutrients in varying proportions. These are namely carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins and water. The requirements and inclusion of these nutrients differ depending on the birds:
Normally, carbohydrates constitute no more than 75 percent in the final feed ration and are used to provide a readily available source of energy. Whereas, fats act as a good source of stored energy. These are particularly important especially in the summertime because the heat increment of fats is lower than carbohydrates. However, fats inclusion should never be more than 10 percent of the feeds. When chickens receive too much fat in their diets, they are at risk of developing crazy chick disease.
In keeping with the notion of correct feeding, energy levels are relatively low for young chicks irrespective if they are broilers or layers. Young chicks do not need a lot of energy in their diets because they serve to provide a basis for fat deposition in market-ready broiler birds or meet their energy requirements essential for egg production. Thus, its common practice that energy requirements will increase with age.
On the contrary, protein requirements are higher for young and actively growing birds. Young chicks thus require a higher plain of nutrient in terms of protein for the development of organs, muscles and feathers. Whereas, protein requirements in older birds is for the maintenance of physiological functions.
Minerals and Vitamins essential for the health and well being of birds can be found in most feed resources. However, the quantities are not sufficient enough to cater to the nutritional needs of highly productive birds. To bridge the shortfall, minerals and vitamins are added to poultry diets through well-formulated commercial premixes to cater to each growing class/age of poultry.
Feeding according to Age
Since age and production status plays a critical role in determining the nutrients needed, poultry producers can feed different structured feeds to our birds according to their production status and age. This is known as phase feeding.
Breaking down feeding in 3 sections.
Breaking down feeding into these three sections helps producers to feed nutrients to the specific nutrient needs thus, increasing production.
This should be taken as a guideline and not certainty. It is important to have an adaption period. When switching to the next feed, it should be changed gradually.
What not to feed
Certain feeds should be never fed to poultry. These feeds either affect the meat and eggs quality and taste or are toxic and detrimental to the well-being of the poultry.
Raw potato or potato peels (uncooked or green)
Avocado skin and pips
Beans (uncooked or dried)
Onion and garlic
Salt (in excess)
* Elmor Deelie, Junior Technical Advisor: Agriculture Capacity Building|Corporate Office, Agra ProVision, Agra
2019-09-17 07:26:45 | 10 months ago