Feeding Strategies to Keep Your Birds Productive all the Way up to 100 Weeks of Age Part Two


Feeding Strategies to Keep Your Birds Productive all the Way up to 100 Weeks of Age Part Two


Fiber for livability


The presence of insoluble fiber, like oat hulls, appears to be essential. An appropriate supply of fibers results in a good feather cover, improved livability, good intestinal health, proper digestion (of mainly starch) and better manure quality (drier). Livability is positively influenced by fibers as it increases the feeling of satiety in birds, which in turn results in quieter birds and eliminating their need for feather ingestion (pecking and cannibalism). Fiber also helps to increase the gizzard size and therefore it improves the nutrient digestibility. Diluting the feed with fibers helps to maintain a good energy balance in older birds and to prevent fatty livers.

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Birds also have a specific requirement for fiber during egg production. They must find fiber in the feed or in their immediate environment. It has been shown that birds that are deficient in fiber ingest feathers as a fiber source. Feathers may be taken from the floor or pecked from other birds. Monitor feather presence on the floor and if no feathers are found, check out some gizzards for the presence of feathers. This is a valuable tool to identify the origin of feather pecking behavior in a flock.


Keep the liver healthy, as it is a key organ for egg production

The liver is one of the key organs, essential to function properly in birds kept in a long production cycle. The liver plays a key role in egg production, egg weight profiles, laying rate, persistency in lay, egg shell formation, livability, and feed conversion. The older the birds become, the more egg mass they have produced. Therefor the more challenging it will be to maintain a healthy liver. A fatty liver is in malfunction and will consequently lead to reduced production performance or a higher percentage second grade eggs. The main challenge is the omnipresent risk of developing a fatty liver, as predisposing factors are frequently present in current commercial egg production circumstances. The energy source has an effect on liver health, as lipoprotein formation from lipids (fat) is efficient and easy for the liver, while energy from proteins and carbohydrates/starch is more challenging. Therefore, replacing part of the carbohydrates by fat or oil will help to keep the liver healthy. Other factors that might result in the risk of fatty livers are high temperatures, high energy intake, fat birds and cage housing systems (less activity).

READ ALSO: Importance of Body Weight Management in Layers

With nutrition it is possible to stimulate the recovery of the liver. As mentioned above, replacing part of the carbohydrates by fat or oil and providing the ability for activity will help to reduce fat accumulation on the liver. Within the vitamin range, choline or betaine, vitamin B12, folic acid and vitamin E are important. Choline is highly effective and present in a wide variety of raw materials, although the availability of choline in raw materials can fluctuate. Supplementary choline or betaine is always beneficial for the birds in production and therefore must be included in layer diets. Choline and betaine have several functions, but specifically related to the topic of fatty livers: they are working lipotropic by preventing fat accumulation by increasing the fatty acid utilization in the liver and by promoting the transport of lecithin. There are multiple factors that determine the amount of added choline or betaine: raw material selected, the length of the production period, the birds health status and the desired safety margins as part of risk management. In situations of increased incidence of fatty livers, start increasing the choline or betaine supplementation from 18 weeks of age onwards. The advised added choline levels in the layer feed are 500-1000ppm, with 250ppm as an absolute minimum.


The importance of calcium and phosphorus

The first half of the rearing period is the most important period for preparing the bird for the laying period. Skeletal development is finished for almost 95% at an age of 11 weeks. During this period, the levels of calcium and phosphorus and their ratio are important to help the chicks in developing a robust frame. Just before the onset of lay, the calcium need is increasing for both medullary bone formation and the production of the first eggshells. If is advised to feed a pre-layer diet starting at 14 to 10 days before expecting the first egg till 2% of lay. This will help to meet the calcium requirements for medullary bone formation and the first egg shell production, and to have a smoother transfer from a low calcium diet (developer diet) to a high calcium diet (layer diet). If the calcium level is not sufficient for eggshell production, it will result in decalcification and transport from calcium from the bones towards the eggshell. In order to obtain robust medullary bone, and therefore better eggshell during the full laying cycle, decalcification should be prevented.

READ ALSO: Factors Affecting Egg Shell Quality in Turkey

During egg production the calcium source is important, especially towards the end of the cycle. The eggshell is mainly formed during the dark period, when the birds are asleep and are not actively consuming feed during. Therefore, the calcium source should be coarse (2-4mm) and slowly soluble to extend the period of calcium absorption from the feed in the intestinal tract and thereby lower the level of decalcification from bones. Making sure that most of the calcium used for eggshell formation is from the feed and not from the bones, will improve egg shell quality, especially towards the end of the laying cycle.


A correct feed composition requires correct feed management

A correct feed composition requires the correct feed management, to make sure the required nutrients are available at the correct timing. Although calcium requirements will not be dramatically different for birds in longer production cycles, adaptations in management by adjusting the feeding technique have been shown to be beneficial. For maintaining good eggshell quality, the feeding technique seems to be more important than the actual nutrition, especially in birds at the end of a longer production cycle.


One feeding technique beneficial for eggshell quality, is providing the nutrient in line with the cycle of egg formation. During the morning, there is a higher requirement for energy, protein, phosphorus for yolk formation and replacement of the medullary bone. While the afternoon requires mainly calcium for eggshell formation during the night. If farm management allows you to do so, you can help the birds supplying the right nutrients at the right time. By either providing to different types of feed, so called split-feeding, or by providing extra and coarse calcium at the end of the afternoon. This will maximize the use of calcium from the feed, while minimizing the mobilization of calcium from the bones.


An additional method is to apply the empty feeding technique. It is important to make sure feeders are empty at the middle of the day (for 1.0-1.5 hours), in order to increase feed consumed at the end of the day. The morning feed is around 40% of the daily feed intake. The afternoon feed, which is about 60% of the amount of feed consumed on a daily bases, can be fed from 6 or 7 hours before light off moment onwards.


In summary

To conclude, provide enough amino acids (take daily egg mass and actual feed intake into account), keep a close eye on the uniformity of the flock and provide amino acids above the theoretical requirements in order to achieve excellent results. Control the birds’ energy balance by respecting the amount of energy needed for growth, performance and maintenance. For proper dietary energy management, frequent monitoring of feed intake and body weights is essential. Furthermore, lower the energy levels towards the end of the production cycle and control feed consumption by adding insoluble fibers to the diet in order to be successful in a longer production cycle all the way up to 100 weeks. Have a focus on liver health, try to prevent the development of a fatty liver by providing energy from fat instead of energy from carbohydrates and by supplementation with sufficient amounts of vitamins to support egg and eggshell production. And not to forget, make sure that the calcium supply is at the correct level especially at the end of the rearing period (pre-layer diet) to minimize bone decalcification as much as possible in order to achieve a robust medullary bone. For prolonged cycles of egg production, the moment of nutrients available is crucial for maintaining performance! Therefore, make sure that calcium is available at the moment of calcification by providing the sufficient amount of coarse and slowly dissolving calcium during egg production.


Source; Hendrix Genetics, Estella Leentfaar

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