Making feed go further in challenging times

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  • Poultry feed prices rose between 50 and 80% above industry averages in the last two years, resulting in a five-year high.
  • One of the major drivers of feed cost is energy, but attempts to reduce energy content in diets usually result in lower egg production and quality, impacting profit margins.
  • A recent trial on laying hens demonstrated that adding the probiotic bacteria Pediococcus acidilactici CNCM I-4622 to poultry feed.
  • The results of the trail indicated that adding this probiotic to the diet allows for up to a 100 kcal/kg (0,4MJ/kg) reduction in feed energy, but with production percentages and eggshell maintained.
  • Attention to bird health is crucial in optimising feed efficiency.

Poultry feed prices rose between 50 and 80% above industry averages in the last two years, resulting in a five-year high. Although prices have lowered to some extent, this was a wake-up call to many poultry producers to ensure birds utilise all available dietary energy.

Although we cannot change the price of individual feed components, some changes can allow birds to utilise more of the available dietary energy in the feed, thus improving feed efficiency. One of the major drivers of feed cost is energy, but attempts to reduce energy content in diets usually result in lower egg production and quality, impacting profit margins. Alternatives must be investigated. Dietary supplementation is one such approach.

Read more about the poultry breeder book here.

How to make feed go further

A recent trial on laying hens demonstrated that adding the probiotic bacteria Pediococcus acidilactici CNCM I-4622 to poultry feed, positively impacts feed efficiency and dietary energy utilisation. In this trial, 200 31-week-old Hy-Line brown layers received four mash feed treatments: standard energy, reduced energy, standard energy with the addition of a probiotic bacteria, and reduced energy with the addition of probiotic bacteria.

The birds had ad libitum access to water, and all diets had equal amino acid and mineral specifications. Standard energy diets were formulated to contain 2 650kcal with reduced diets containing 2 550kcal.

Bioequivalence was used to evaluate the combined effect of the reduced energy diet and the supplementation of Pediococcus acidilactici CNCM I-4622 on bird performance. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) defines this concept as follows: If two products are said to be bioequivalent, it means that they would be expected to be, for all relevant effects, the same.

Effects of probiotic supplementation

Looking at hen performance criteria (egg production, FCR, exported egg mass, feed intake), this concept shows that hens receiving Pediococcus acidilactici CNCM I-4622 with a reduced energy diet, exhibited bioequivalent performance to control hens fed the standard energy diet.

The results indicated that adding this probiotic to the diet allows for up to a 100 kcal/kg (0,4MJ/kg) reduction in feed energy, but with production percentages and eggshell maintained. Probiotic-supplemented birds demonstrated better productive performance and similar eggshell thickness to eggs from the control standard energy diet, than those without.

By using the supplementation, laying hens can maintain optimal gut health, extracting more energy from the feed which can then be used for production. Energy wastage should be limited, especially in times of high feed prices as the return on investment is the highest in this period, even if prices fluctuate. When birds are fed less or placed on cheaper diets, producers will pay for it in their bird performance loss.

Cost of disease

Attention to bird health is crucial in optimising feed efficiency. Feed efficiency of 10 to 25% is estimated as the loss in birds affected by infections such as Salmonella. Similar reductions in feed efficiency can also be experienced when birds are suffering from nutritional or parasitic diseases.

The core of truly saving on feed cost is ensuring that your birds are in good health and dietary energy is used for performance rather than immune response. – Marthie Nickols, Poultry Development Manager, Vitam International

Contact Marthie Nickols at email marthien@vitam.co.za or 083 592 6515.

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