PRICE RISE OF POULTRY FEED IS AN ISSUE: How to Economize Poultry Feeding

Ram Singh Bibyan and Harneet Kour

In recent years, poultry industry has crippled many times due to rising price of feed, emergence of new or re-emergence of existing diseases resulting in severe morbidity, mortality which caused severe economic losses. The careful approaches to sustain the poultry industry in the competitive market, either domestic or international, should be to economise poultry feeding, production of safe and quality products to meet the consumer’s demands and to ensure the welfare and green poultry production. The factors responsible to reduce the cost of production are feed and labour cost, good business climate, economics of scale, and access to technology. The feed cost accounts for 68-75% of broiler and 75-80% of layer production cost. The feed cost is a major means of manipulating the production cost for better profitability. Therefore, the feed-cost efficient poultry production is the major constraint in poultry production. Every effort should be directed to maintain feed quality, contain feed cost and utilise every bit of feed to convert into quality delicious food. The feeding cost in poultry production depends upon precision feeding; cost of the balanced feed; augmenting nutrient utilization through processing; use of suitable supplements and feed additives; improving gut health; and adopting effective feeding management programme.

Precision Feeding: Precision feeding is part of the precision poultry farming approach and involves the use of feeding techniques that allow the proper amount of feed with the suitable composition to be supplied in a timely manner to a poultry farm. Supply of essential nutrients in adequate quantities to poultry is primarily considered to obtain an optimum growth, production and/or reproduction. A balanced feed is one that supplies all the essential nutrients in proper amount and proportion matching the requirement. Efforts are on for optimizing and updating nutrient requirements for various species of poultry. Energy (about 50% of feed cost) and protein (about 40% of feed cost) are two major items of poultry mash that need special consideration as both can bring a continued and increased production of eggs and meat with an entry of improved genetic stock. Application of ideal protein concept and meeting amino acids requirements in terms of digestible in practical feed may help in utilizing costlier proteinic ingredients and thus in reducing feed cost as feed, if formulated with minimum requirements based on digestible amino acids rather than total, the total amino acids could be adjusted downward by 10%. Moreover, ideal protein system reduces nitrogen excretion, soil and water pollution and stress to the birds. However, scope remains to increase or decrease lysine and/or methionine supply in diet for specific purposes, being these amino acids limiting besides threonine. Remarkable results are being obtained in performance of meat type as well as egg type birds through manipulations of dietary energy and amino acids especially lysine and methionine. Nutritional manipulation may result 2 to 5% more breast yield. Narrower energy to protein ratio increased breast yield 1.2% more. Similarly, 3200 kcal ME and 1.4% lysine increased total carcass yield, while 1.0% lysine for optimum breast yield. Similarly, changing methionine supply in diet can alter the egg size. Partitioning of energy, protein and amino acids intakes for different growth and/or production rates at different body weights and environmental temperature more precisely help in developing feeding standards. The validity for using ARC and NRC standards under Indian condition is doubtful as requirements differ due to several factors such as management practices, genetic makeup, environmental temperature, metabolic and behavioral characteristics. Substantial differences also exist in the estimates of nutritional requirements for chicken and other poultry species of tropical countries from that of temperate climate. Moreover, no set of nutrient recommendations should be accepted as universal. The persons responsible for feed formulation must carefully evaluate local conditions in relation to ingredient variability, quality of ingredients, consistency of feed mixing and delivery system that affect the amount of nutrients that should be present in the diet. Amongst the minerals calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chlorine, zinc, manganese, copper, iodine, iron and selenium are taken into consideration during feed formulation. Similarly, vitamin A, B2 and D3 are the most critical vitamins. Other water soluble vitamins and vitamin E are also supplemented. Generally, the minerals and vitamins are supplied in diet to meet the requirements above their supply from feed origin as the bioavailability of essential minerals and vitamins vary greatly.

Reduction of feed cost: The cost of feed depends upon the availability of feedstuffs and local tariff rates. The cost, easy availability and nutritional as well as physical quality of feed are important factors for their selection in feed formulation. The availability and cost of maize and soybean meal generally determines feed cost. The countries producing maize and soybean meal produce broilers and eggs at low cost. Average increase in corn availability has been 3.38% per annum, which is far below the growth rate of egg or meet production. Therefore, only two options are left with either to increase maize production drastically by increasing yield or area under production or to utilize alternate cereals or cereal byproducts replacing maize. Similarly, soybean meal also becomes sometimes scarce.

Use of alternate low-cost feed resources: As there is scarcity of both maize and soybean meal at reasonable price, there is need to utilize locally available feed ingredients more and more in least cost efficient mixed feed. India, due to its highly variable landscape, rainfall and agro-climate, produce large number of raw materials for feeding, however, only a narrow range of raw materials are used in poultry feed formulations due to lack of reliable data on their nutritive quality, feeding value and safe or effective levels of inclusion. Bajra, jowar, broken or undersized wheat, broken rice/rice kanki, maize byproducts, rice polish/bran- with or without oil are used, either alone or in combination, as alternate feedstuffs to replace sizeable amount of maize. Alternate protein supplements include mustard cake, GNC, sesame cake, toasted guar meal/guar korma, meat meal, meat-cum-bone meal, blood meal, maize gluten meal, sunflower seed meal, quality fish meal, etc. are included in practical feed formulation in variable quantity, either alone or in combination, to overcome the shortage of soybean meal and also to reduce to cost of diet. However, for effective utilization of such raw materials in poultry food formulations reliable data on their nutritive quality, feeding value and safe or effective levels of inclusion is must. Moreover, most of the feedstuffs in their native state harbour one or more nutritive substance (s). Cereal byproducts and oilseed residues, usually constituting about 50% of poultry diet, are also not an exception in terms of non-starch polysaccharides and anti-nutritional factors. Low and variable content of ME and fibre in diet many times have led to poor feed conversion efficiency, more excreta output, nutrient loss through excreta and excessive foul odour in poultry house. There is also scope of utilization of other cereals and oilseed residues in combinations within their safe levels to replace maize partially or completely and soybean meal partially. However, the effective combinations (cereal mixture, protein mixture and protein-cereal mixture) are as follows:

  1. Effective cereal mixtures: maize+bajra: 50:50; maize+jowar (red): 75:25; maize+jowar (brown): 50:50; maize+jowar (white): 25:75; maize+bajra+jowar: 33:33:33; maize+finger millet: 75:25; maize+bajra+jowar+ragi: 25% each; and maize+rice kani: 75:25.
  2. Cereal plus protein mixtures for broilers: maize+bajra+5% MC+10% SSM; maize+bajra+10% MC+5% SSM; maize+bajra+jowar+5% MC+10% SSM; maize+bajra+jowar+10% MC+5% SSM and maize+bajra+jowar+SBM+5% safflower meal.
  3. Cost efficient mixtures for starting chicks (0-8 wk): maize+bajra+SBM; maize+bajra+SBM+10% RSM+10% SSM; maize+bajra+jowar+SBM; maize+bajra+jowar+SBM+10% RSM + 10% SSM; Bajra+jowar+SBM; Bajra+jowar+SBM+10% RSM+10% SSM.
  4. Cost efficient mixtures for growing pullets: maize+7% RSM+7% SSM; maize+bajra+SBM; maize+bajra+6.5% RSM+6.5% SSM; maize+jowar+8% RSM+8% SSM; Bajra+jowar+SBM; Bajra+jowar+SBM+10% RSM+10% SSM; maize+Bajra+SBM; Bajra+SBM.
  5. Cost efficient mixtures for Layers: SBM+RSM+SSM in maize, maize+bajra; maize+Bajra+sorghum or Bajra+jowar, Bajra+SBM (Phase 1), SBM+RSM+SSM, RSM SSM in maize, maize+bajra, maize+bajra+sorglum or Bajra+jowar, Bajra+SBM (Phase 2).

Augmenting nutrient utilization: Nutrient utilisation efficiency of feed can be improved by precise supply of nutrients, selection of suitable feed ingredients with least anti-nutritional factors and mycotoxins, meeting limiting nutrients through strategic supplementation, feed processing and sanitation, effective feeding management and use of biotechnological innovations and feed additives. Anti-nutritional substances and mycotoxins reduce the availability of various nutrients.

Feed processing: Feed manufacturing technology has gone revolutionary changes from hand mixing to a vertical mixer system and ultimately to the fully automatic computer compatible modern feed manufacturing units. However, all the compounding processes are in operation depending upon the flock size and economic status of the farmers. The small poultry farmers are also diverting towards feed compounding at their doors as the commercially available feed is becoming costlier day-by-day, incurring loss to the farmers due to fluctuating prices of their produce (meat and egg). The loss of the nutrients through excreta and the cost of production is minimised through processing of feed. There is also scope to enhance the availability of nutrients from grains, grain byproducts and mixed feed through different processing techniques. Many incriminating factors of feed are also destroyed due to processing. The production of crumbles and pellet feeds, especially for broilers, are in increasing trend. Steam pelleting and/or extrusion is much more effective to reduce microbial contamination in feedstuffs and in salmonella control. Pelleting also provides scope for utilization of high fibre feed resources. Pelletisation of feed improves their efficiency for growth and egg production and the improvement was progressively greater as the fibre level in the diet increased. Several scientists have attributed this increased performance either to increased density of diet (in pellet or crumble in comparison to mash form) or energy utilization. Poultry birds spend less time in eating, thus more NE is available for body weight gain.

Feed additives and neutraceuticals: Currently, feed additives have assumed a position of prime importance. Poultry strains employed in well-organised production system are more prone to stressors, infections and diseases, and thus they require better management practices and welfare. Besides, feed additives help to improve the physical appearance, consistency, nutritive quality, shelf life and texture of diet. The feed additives, administered orally through feed in relatively small amount for improving intrinsic value of the nutrient mix. Another term “neutraceutical products” has also been introduced to define substances produced in a purified or extracted form, and which on administration provide or stimulate production of raw materials required for normal bodily functions. The additives hold great promise in the feeding of poultry includes antibiotics, antioxidants, synthetic micronutrients, enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics, anticoccidials, mould inhibitors, herbal products, etc. Antibiotic compounds have been employed as feed additive in low concentrations throughout the world for nearly 50 years to promote growth and feed conversion efficiency in broilers and increasing egg production in layers. The effect of antibiotics is more pronounced when the animals are kept under unhygienic condition and are fed relatively vitamins and/or amino acid imbalance/deficient diet. Available reports from the European countries indicated improvement in nutritive value, feed utilisation, body weight gain and reduction in excreta volume following the supplementation of poultry diets with microbial non-starch polysaccharidases such as cellulases, pectinases, hemicellulases, arabinoxylanases, beta-glucanases. Autolysis of native phytate phosphorus present in some of the feedstuffs like wheat and wheat bran rich in endogenous phytase activity by water soaking not only hydrolysed phytate P into inorganic P in a considerable amount but it improved the performance and utilisation of phosphorus by the birds.

Gut health: Gut is not only an organ of supply but itself is an organ of demand, need for its own turnover and functioning. The growth and repairing of gut is very high compared to other body organs. Gut is a complex ecosystem maintaining a fine tune between the host intestinal cells, producing and secreting enzymes for digestion and subsequent absorption of food material, and its microbial habitat that includes a diversified group of microbes. Maintaining a structurally sound gut should be prime strategy for efficient and hygienic poultry production. Because it ensures proper digestion and absorption of valuable intrinsic feed factors, provides the best feed conversion ratio, alleviate sub-clinical infections, if any by promoting body defense, provide resistance against entero-pathogens and can check the mortality and morbidity losses. In a sound gut, wastage of nutrients is less and thus ensures hygienic production system and better poultry house air quality. Gut health is regulated by a number of factors that includes nutritional deficiency, nature of diet, microbial balance, flock density, disease and infection, injury etc. Deficiency of micronutrients, imbalance in ration formulation, grain engorgement, and or beak deformity preventing proper consumption may impair gut health. Feed toxins and toxicants can also affect the gut integrity if not properly monitored. Biogenic amines including histamine, cadaverine, putrescine, spermine, and spermidine are present in animal protein products, which are involved in the occurrence of malabsorption syndrome. Unlike ruminants due to lack of cellulase fibre digestion capacity in poultry is very less and diet should not contain more then 6-8% fibre otherwise pelleted. Presence of non-stared polysaccharide (NSP) especially soluble fractions in the diet provides substrate for the growth of undesirable bacteria and accumulation of fermentation products affecting the gut severely. Insoluble NSP is a major problem leading to soiling of litter. Microbial balance of gut is utmost important for its proper digestion and health. Diseases like coccidiosis and foul plague found to affect the gut integrity severely. It is well accepted that there is no substitution for supplementation of quality feed ingredients for maintaining natural gut health. Certain feed additives (antibiotics, prebiotics, probiotics/ direct fed microbials, nucleotides, toxin binders, acidifiers, enzymes, etc.) possess promise for augmenting gut health and ensuring nutrient utilization.

Feeding management: Efficiency of feeding management, in terms of proper storage of feed minimising feed wastage, timely feeding and watering, use of suitable feeders and waterers of appropriate design and number, adjusting height and placement of feeders and waterers, feeding akin to growth or production phase, etc. play important role in feed cost-efficient production.

Feed conversion ratio: Feed conversion ratio (FCR) is an important parameter of economic importance. It indicates many things related to the quality of feed, quality of birds, wastage of feed and management efficiency or disease problem, if any. For example, a reasonably good FCR value of broiler for 0-6 weeks of age is 1.6 (optimum reported range of 1.5 to 1.75) and for commercial layers, 125 g of feed per egg. Better feed conversion ensures better feed utilisation, less wastage of valuable nutrients, less excreta voided, less foul smell in poultry house, better litter condition and less enviromental pollution. Moreover, a reduction of about 0.1 unit in FCR for gain will provide opportunity to raise about 5% of more broilers and to produce about 5% more eggs within the quantity of feed being used for feeding poultry. The factors influencing FCR are genetic potential of birds; age of marketing; use of balanced diet; selection of feed ingredients for finished feed; concentration of dietary energy; protein, amino acids and micro nutrients; use of feed additives; anti-nutritional substances and mycotoxins present in feedstuffs; feed processing; moisture content of feed; use of properly designed feeding appliances; management practices being followed; and environmental stress and diseases. By scientific feeding of the poultry birds, one can definitely reduce the cost of poultry feeding considerably.