Over the past half a century, poultry production has become more intensive and in the process supplied consumers with an abundant and healthy process of protein. Today’s consumers can look forward to safe meat, eggs and chicken by-products.
Great gains have been made in production as well as efficiency while minimizing the environmental impact partly due to the use of additives in the poultry feeds.
What are feed additives?
Almost all diets contain additives, including the diets of humans. In poultry feed manufacturing, the feed additives are used in order to boost the efficiency of the growth of the poultry stock as well as or the bird’s laying capacity, to prevent incidences of diseases in the poultry and also to improve the poultry’s feed utilization.
All the additives that are used in the poultry feed formulation must have been approved for use. They must also be used as directed with regards the to the concentration levels as well as the duration of feeding the poultry.
The poultry feed additives used are also specific to the age and the types of the birds being fed. In many cases, the guidelines for the use of feed additives in poultry feeds will be provided by the relevant government agency such as the department of agriculture in your country. Here is a look at some of the common feed additives that are included in poultry feed formulation:-
Antibiotics: Antibiotics have been used in the poultry industry since 1950 mainly to boost the growth of the birds and to improve feed efficiency. Antibiotic dietary supplementation can also significantly boost egg production.
Antioxidants: Common antioxidants used as feed additives for poultry feeds include BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin. They mainly help in preventing oxidative rancidity in the bodily fat of the poultry.
Grits: Grits are hard substances that can either be soluble or insoluble. Once ingested by the chicken, they will remain trapped in the gizzard to help in facilitating the grinding of the poultry feed. Some of the common grit materials used in poultry feeds include clam shells, oyster shells, gravel, limestone, pebbles or even granite. If you are feeding your chickens mash of finely ground poultry feeds, then you may not need a lot of grit.
Xanthophylls: The xanthophylls help in producing the deep yellow pigmentation on the shank, feet, beak and egg yolks of the poultry which is quite popular with many buyers and end users. It is usually indicative of top quality poultry products.
Acidifiers: The acidifiers are added on the poultry feeds to help in lowering the PH of the feed and contribute to excellent gut health which is good for the health of the chickens. A low PH acts as a natural inhibition against the various pathogenic microbes. The acidifiers can be in the form inorganic acids or organic acids. They exert their antimicrobial function directly on the feed before it is ingested and after it has been ingested.
Here is a look at the main ingredients used in poultry feed formulation:-
Corn and Soybean Meal: There are various grains and cereals that can be used in poultry feed formulation but corn and soybean meal are by far the most popular. In Europe, wheat will be substituted for corn. Corn and soybean meal are also the lowest cost sources of energy and proteins.
Fishmeal and Meat Meal: These make for great sources of protein as well as amino acids. They also contain bone meal which makes for a great source of minerals such as Calcium and Phosphorous. Depending on their prices, these should make up anywhere from 2% to 5% of the diet being formulated.
Calcium and Phosphorous: These are the main minerals that should be included in the poultry feeds. Plant Phosphorous is likely to contain non-phytin factors. Consider that only about 30% to 40% of the plant Phosphorous is a non-phytin P. It is therefore advisable to increase the proportion a bit or supplement the organic P with inorganic sources of P.
Salt: Salt is an integral part of most poultry diets. It should make up 0.2% to 0.5% of the poultry diet.
Supplemental Lipids: These can make up to 5% of the poultry diet. The importance of the lipids in the poultry diet is that they will increase the energy utilization in your poultry by reducing the passage rate. They can also reduce the heat increment that can affect production.
Yellow Pigmentation: It is advisable to use as much yellow pigmentation as possible in your poultry feeds. A good source of yellow pigmentation for poultry feeds is yellow corn or yellow maize. You can also use other poultry feed ingredients that are great sources xanthophylls like an alfalfa meal or even corn gluten meal. The yellow pigmentation in the poultry feed will contribute to the yellow coloration of the chickens; feet, shanks, egg yolks and skin which are quite popular with end consumers.
Non-nutritive additives: The non-nutritive additives can be added to the poultry feed for a number of reasons. For example, the antibiotics can be added to control diseases and stimulate the growth of the poultry. The nitrofurans and arsenicals can be added to improve the performance of the poultry. Other non-nutritive additives that can be added in the poultry feeds include antioxidatives, antifungal compounds and antiparasitic compounds.
There are various techniques which can be used in formulating poultry feeds. All of these poultry feed formulation techniques are geared at achieving the same objective of producing high quality and well balanced poultry feeds at the least cost possible.
Here is a brief overview of some of the techniques used in poultry feed formulation:-
Trial and Error Poultry Feed Formulation Technique
The trial and error technique is the most popular method used in poultry feed formulation. As the name suggests, the feed formulation will be manipulated through a trial and error process until you are able to meet the nutritional needs of the bird. Through the trial and error method, it is possible to formulate the exact the combination that will meet all the nutrient needs of the bird.
Linear Programming (LP) Poultry Feed Formulation Method
The linear programming technique involves coming up with a least cost formulation with the use of various mathematical equations. Each of the questions can have diverse solutions but once the cost of the poultry feed ingredients is applied, you will only be able to achieve a single least cost combination to work with.
This process can be done with the help of a computer that is capable of making thousands of calculations within the shortest time possible to give the least cost formulation.
The only problem is that machine will not correct any errors caused by the use of incorrect data. There could also be errors in setting up the software tool. The rations that a machine will give you via a linear programming will only be as good as the data that has been fed into the machine.
The least cost formula for poultry feed refers to a formula that is both nutritionally and technically sound with a minimum cost of the ingredients that will be used in the poultry feeds.
Using the least cost feed formulation will help keep the costs low while helping you meet the nutritional requirements of your poultry. Poultry feeding is one aspect of poultry farming that the farmer simply has to get right. Poultry feeds generally account for anywhere between 60% and 70% of the production costs and a mistake can be devastating for many farmers. The least cost formula is a way to ensure you are getting things right at optimal pricing.
The poultry feed ingredients used in formulating poultry feeds do change frequently. The end users are not assured of a standardised poultry feed every season. Many manufacturers of poultry feeds will generally include vague descriptions of the ingredients used in formulating poultry feeds in order to obfuscate that fact. So you are unlikely to see a case where the manufacturer explicitly names the ingredients that they have used in formulating the poultry feeds. They will more likely use general terms such as “grains”, minerals etc. This vague labelling allows them to interchange the ingredients that they use in formulating the poultry feeds at will.
However, the one who is likely to notice the change is a keen farmer. In many cases, a sudden change of the ingredients used in poultry feed formulation is likely to have an adverse impact on the production. Chickens, particularly, can be quite punishing when subjected to this kind of change and are unlikely to regain their erstwhile production levels before the sudden change in the ingredients used in the making the poultry feeds. For the farmer, this can have serious long term costs and will very likely have an impact on the profitability of your poultry farms.
Will Least Cost Feed Formulation Save You Money?
The idea of least cost formulation (LCF) is meet your target nutritional needs for your poultry at the lowest cost possible. Every poultry farm has a unique situation which necessitates the need for a specially formulated to meet their needs at the lowest cost possible.
Because of the variation in the needs of the individual farmers, the formula for least cost formulation of poultry feeds does not remain the same throughout the year. It will depend throughout the year depending on the individual requirements of the farmer and the availability of the feed ingredients in the region.
Poultry feed formulation or least cost formulation does not simply involve complex mathematical formulas. In a previous post on poultry feed formulation, we said that this process is both a science and an art.
You might carry out excellent mathematical calculations for your feed formulations but it may be impractical based on your circumstances or the result may not be the best for ensuring your birds have optimal quality feeds.
Professional animal nutritionists will generally test the feed formulation before the feed is given to the birds. Here are some key factors to keep in mind when formulating your poultry feeds:-
Keep in Mind the Adaptability of Your Poultry
The feeds that you formulate should be palatable in order for it to stimulate intake by the targeted poultry. If the birds refuse to eat the formulation because it is not palatable, then you will have wasted a lot of money as the poultry feeds must be eaten by the birds for the food to serve its purpose.
You Should Look at Digestibility
The nutrients used in the poultry feeds have to be digestible and released into the birds’ gastrointestinal tract for the nutrients to be used by the birds. The digestive system of the chickens does not generally favour food rations with high fibre content.
Look at the Cost
The cost is one of the most important factors when it comes to poultry feeds formulation. Fortunately for many poultry feed producers and poultry producers, the nutrient requirements of chickens can be met by a host of combinations of various feed ingredients.
When you look at the costs of all these feed ingredients, you will only need to have a single least cost formulation. The least cost feed formulation should at the end of the day ensure that the nutrient requirements of the chickens are met and that you have been able to meet your objectives when preparing your poultry feeds.
Look at the Presence of Toxins and Anti-Nutritional Factors
Anti-nutritional factors in the poultry feeds will affect the digestion of the feeds and potentially deny the birds essential nutrients. An example of an anti-nutritional factor is the anti-trypsin that is found in soybean meal. There are various ways to control or mitigate the impact of the anti-nutritional factors in your poultry feeds that we will discuss in subsequent articles.
There are certain feed ingredients which may also contain toxins. If these toxic substances are present in large amount, this could be detrimental to the health of your poultry. Where possible, limit or eliminate the inclusion in your poultry feed formulation of ingredients that may contain toxins.
You should also look at factors such the texture of the feeds, moisture content as well as the kind of processing that feed will go through.