The nutrient intake of poultry is affected by both the nutrient composition of the diet and the amount of feed eaten or poultry feed requirements and intake. The optimum nutrient poultry feed intake for poultry raised commercially will depend on the commercial goals of the poultry enterprise.
The goals in feeding poultry differ between different classes of poultry. In general, for poultry raised to provide meat, such as broilers, the aim is to produce the maximum body weight gain for the minimum cost of feed while controlling the amount of fat on the carcass.
For egg laying birds, the aim is to maximize egg production for the minimum cost of feed while controlling the egg size and egg quality. For mature egg laying birds this generally entails maintaining a relatively stable body weight.
These different goals, along with differences in digestion and absorption of nutrients, require different levels of nutrients to be provided to different classes of poultry.
Farmers should maintain the right feed quantities for chicken at each stage of growth as shown below:
— For poultry feed, An egg-laying chicken requires 130-140g of feed per day.
— For poultry feed, A chick requires a minimum 60g per day. If they finish their daily rations, give them fruit and vegetable cuttings to ensure they feed continuously.
— For poultry feed, Young chickens (or pullets) which are about to start laying eggs should be fed 60g for 2 and ½ months and then put on layer diet (140g per day). Supplement the feed with vegetables, edible plant leaves and fruit peelings in addition to their feed rations.
— For poultry feed, Broiler chicks require 67g per day. Broiler finishers require 67g of feed per day to the day of slaughter.
— Chickens are very sensitive to aflatoxins- never use rotten maize (maozo) while making feeds.
Providing the right nutrition is important for poultry growth, production and health. Different energy requirements are required, depending on factors including bird age and production status. Providing adequate nutrition is important so that the bird is able to achieve its productive potential and also for it to sustain health.
Feed that is of poor quality, not in the right form or does not contain the right levels of energy and mix of nutrients, can potentially cause nutritional stress and lead to other health concerns.
Where to Buy Poultry Feed Ingredients
Poultry farmers who need raw materials for feed making including feed additives (pre-mixes and amino acids) can order them from agro-veterinary shops nearest to them.
There are also companies doing calibration services for farmers who wish to make feeds in large scale farming enterprises and even for any farmer who requires these services.
The nutrient intake of poultry can be controlled by limiting the amount of feed available to be eaten, by adjusting the nutrient content of the diet to match voluntary feed intake or by manipulating the lighting program through increasing or decreasing the duration of darkness. Allowing poultry to eat as much as they want is called ad libitum feeding.
There are a range of factors that can affect the voluntary feed intake of poultry, these include:
- Breed or strain
- Nutrient balance of the diet
- Ambient temperature
- Health and welfare status of the birds
- Accessibility of the feed
- Flock density
In addition, certain feed ingredients, poor feed quality or feed contamination can have adverse effects on voluntary feed intake due to poor palatability or the presence of toxic factors.
Suppliers of commercial poultry provide information on the optimum nutrient and feed intakes for their birds throughout the production cycle. Feed intake and production performance of flocks should be monitored and adjustments made to the diet composition where required to keep performance on track.
In particular, feed intake is readily affected by ambient temperature, with feed intake increasing at lower ambient temperatures and decreasing at higher ambient temperatures. In such cases, the diet may need to be reformulated to adjust nutrient intake to match changes in voluntary feed intake as a result of changes in ambient temperature.
As an example, in high ambient temperatures a more concentrated diet can compensate the decreased nutrient intake occurring as a result of lower voluntary feed intake.
Accessibility to feed is sometimes overlooked as a limiting factor and can be caused through inappropriate or poorly adjusted feeding equipment or inadequate feeding space due to overstocking of facilities.
The height of the feeders should be adjusted according to the flock age to provide easy access to the feed for all the birds.
Important Tips on Feed Preparation
When making home-made feed rations, it is important to do experimental trials, by isolating a number of chickens, feeding them and observing their performance. If the feed rations are right, the broilers will grow fast and layers will increase egg production (at least 1 egg after every 27 hours).
Buy quality fishmeal from reputable companies. If omena is used, the farmers must be sure of its quality; most of the omena in the open-air markets may be contaminated. Farmers are advised to go for soya meal if they cannot get good quality omena.
Always mix the micronutrients (amino acids) first before mixing them with the rest of the feed. For mixing, farmers are advised to use a drum mixer (many jua kali artisans can make one). Never use a shovel to mix feed because the ingredients will be unevenly distributed.
Important: To improve on the feed quality, farmers making their own feeds should always have it tested to ensure the feed is well balanced.
Poultry convert feed into food products quickly, efficiently, and with relatively low environmental impact compared with other livestock. The high rate of productivity of poultry results in relatively high nutrient needs. Poultry require the presence of at least 38 dietary nutrients in appropriate concentrations and balance.
Criteria used to determine the requirement for a given nutrient include growth, feed efficiency, egg production, prevention of deficiency symptoms, and quality of poultry product. These requirements assume the nutrients are in a highly bioavailable form, and they do not include a margin of safety. Consequently, adjustments should be made based on bioavailability of nutrients in various feedstuffs.
A margin of safety should be added based on the length of time the diet will be stored before feeding, changes in rates of feed intake due to environmental temperature or dietary energy content, genetic strain, husbandry conditions (especially the level of sanitation), and the presence of stressors (such as diseases or mycotoxins).
Poultry Feeds Nutrient Requirements
Animals eat to acquire the energy and building materials that they need to live and grow. Animals use energy to perform normal body functions such as breathing, walking, eating, digesting, and maintaining body temperature.
Poultry feed requirements entails that poultry nutrients provide poultry the energy and material needed for the development of bone, flesh, feathers, and eggs. Each of these compounds is important in providing poultry the nutrients they need, and a deficit of even one can have serious health consequences for poultry.
Poultry diets must be formulated to provide all of the bird’s nutrient requirements if optimum growth and production is to be achieved. There are six classes of nutrients:
The major source of energy for poultry. Most of the carbohydrate in poultry diets is provided by cereal grains.
Dietary carbohydrates are important sources of energy for poultry. Corn, wheat, and other cereal grains are the main carbohydrate component of most poultry diets.
The starch in these foodstuffs is readily digested by poultry, but other carbohydrates occur in varying levels of concentration in cereal grains and protein supplements.
Certain types of dietary carbohydrates aren’t easily digested by poultry, so it’s always best to add appropriate enzyme preparations to supplement diets of rye or barley and improve the nutrient absorption in a non-starch based diet.
If such diets aren’t properly supplemented, they’ll contribute very little to meeting the energy requirements of your flock.
Provide energy and essential fatty acids that are required for some bodily processes.
Generally speaking, fat is usually added to the feed for meat-type poultry to increase overall energy concentration, and thereby improve productivity and feed efficiency.
Feed-grade fat tends to come from different sources, including grease from restaurants, the rendering of animal carcasses, and the refuse from vegetable oil refining.
Nevertheless, all feed fats should be stabilised by an antioxidant to preserve unsaturated fatty acids, and when animal tallow is added to feed at a low level, it might be nutritionally beneficial to blend it with a small amount of vegetable oil. This is because the metabolic value of a fat blend is better than a singular addition.
Corn is a particularly advantageous fat source because its fatty acids are mostly unsaturated, and it usually constitutes a large portion of existing poultry feed regardless.
Read Also: How Often to Wash Poultry Feeding Equipments
Protein is required for the synthesis of body tissue (particularly muscle), physiological molecules (such as enzymes and hormones), feathers and for egg production. Proteins also provide a small amount of energy.
The dietary requirements for protein are actually requirements for the amino acids found in dietary protein. Poultry use these amino acids to fulfil a number of functions, including using them to make up the bulk of their structural and protective tissues such as skin, feathers, bones and ligaments.
Amino acids also help form the soft tissues including the organs and muscles, as well as playing an important role in the metabolisation of feed into energy.
Failure to provide adequate protein in your bird’s diet will result in a number of structural and health problems for your flock, as well as reducing yield of meat or eggs.
However, it’s important to remember that poultry protein and amino acid requirements can vary considerably, depending on the rate of growth or level of egg production of the individual bird.
Turkey poults and broiler chickens have high amino acid requirements so they can meet the necessary rapid growth, for instance, and the mature rooster requires fewer amino acids than the laying hen, even though its body size is greater and feed consumption similar.
The percentage requirements of protein and amino acids must also increase if you keep your flock in warmer environments, when metabolisation is far quicker.
In general, protein and amino acid percentages are some of the trickier nutritional balances to get right for poultry production, so it’s best to fully research the breed you’re working with, and tailor your feed to them specifically.
Organic chemicals (chemicals containing carbon) which help control body processes and are required in small amounts for normal health and growth.
Vitamins tend to be classified under two different categories: fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K, and water-soluble vitamins, including the B-complex and vitamin C.
Ensuring layers are well supplied with the vitamin A precursors known as carotenoids gives the golden yellow yolk that consumers demand from their eggs.
Vitamin C isn’t usually required as an additional dietary supplement for poultry, as it’s already synthesised by them. However, it has been suggested that poultry under stress respond well to its addition in the diet.
Dietary supplements for poultry tend to contain high levels of vitamins that are considered well in excess of the minimum requirements, so as long as your flock is receiving adequate supplement to their feed, it is unlikely they will be deficient in any of the main components.
Inorganic chemicals (chemicals not containing carbon) which help control body processes and are required for normal health and growth.
Minerals are the inorganic parts of feed or tissues.
They are required for various functions within the bird.
For example, calcium and phosphorous are vital in the formation of the skeleton, and sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride function to stabilise the pH levels throughout the body.
In the diet of growing birds calcium is used for bone formation, whereas the bulk of calcium rations in laying hens is usually used to form the eggshell.
If a hen does not receive sufficient calcium in its diet for eggshell production, it may use reserves of calcium from its skeleton, but this resource will be rapidly depleted and the hen will stop laying.
Backyard producers often use oyster shells or ground limestone to add calcium to their flock’s diet .
It is easy to find general mineral supplements for addition to poultry feed, although again, it’s best to research your specific breedin a more in-depth way before working out percentages.
Water is an essential part of life for all poultry and livestock, but the amount required for adequate health and productivity will vary depending on the temperature in which the birds are kept, the bird’s growth rate or level of egg production, and the individual’s ability to reabsorb water through the kidneys.
Any level of water deprivation exceeding twelve hours will have an adverse effect on the growth of poultry and the egg production of layers. Water deprivation exceeding 24 – 36 hours will more often than not result in death.
It is particularly important to consider water availability for chicks. The baby chick is about 79 per cent water, and it cannot drink a lot of water at once so it has to drink often.
It’s therefore vital to provide cool, clean water for your poultry, and ensure that it’s accessible to them at all times.
Factors Affecting the Nutrient Requirements of Poultry
The nutrient requirements of poultry are affected by a large number of factors, including:
Genetics (the species, breed or strain of bird) – Different species, breeds or strains of birds have different average body sizes, growth rates and production levels and will absorb and utilise nutrients from feed with different levels of efficiency.
Therefore, they will require feed with different nutrient compositions. The genetics of commercial poultry is constantly changing, and as a result, so are their nutrient requirements. Consequently, breeders of commercial poultry provide information on the specific nutrient requirements for the birds they sell.
Age – nutrient requirements are related to both body weight and the stage of maturity in bird.
Sex – prior to sexual maturity, the sexes have only small differences in their nutrient requirements and males and females can usually be fed the same compromise diet to achieve acceptable growth rates. Differences in nutrient requirements are larger following the onset of sexual maturity and significantly different diet formulations are then required for each sex.
Reproductive state – the level of egg production in hens and sexual activity in males will affect nutrient requirements.
Ambient temperature – poultry have increased energy requirements to maintain normal body temperature in cold ambient temperatures and the opposite in hot ambient temperatures.
Food digestion processes produce body heat, the amount of which will vary according to the nutrient composition of the diet.
This is called the heat increment of the diet. In cold temperatures it may be desirable to formulate a diet with a higher heat increment and the opposite in hot temperatures.
Housing system – the type of housing system will influence the level of activity of the birds and therefore their energy requirements.
Health status – birds experiencing a disease challenge may benefit from an increase in the intake of some nutrients, most commonly vitamins.
Production aims – the optimal nutrient composition of the diet will vary according to production aims, such as optimizing weight gain or carcass composition, egg numbers or egg size. Poultry that are raised for breeding purposes may need to have their energy intake restricted to ensure that they do not become obese.
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