Escalating cereal prices and volatile commodity markets are reinforcing the importance of strategies that maximise poultry feed utilisation.
“Sky-high feed prices have left the poultry industry extremely vulnerable. Mitigating the impact while maintaining performance, however, is a challenge,” says world renowned poultry nutritionist Rick Kleyn.
A good starting point is to utilise as much of any available feed as possible, says Mr Kleyn. “Strategies that prioritise gut health are fundamental in maximising nutrient absorption and feed utilisation, particularly in the absence of antimicrobial solutions.”
Gut health is a complex area, adds Mr Kleyn. It combines nutrition, as well as bird health and physiology. This means a number of important factors must be considered when optimising feed utilisation.
They include maintaining intestinal barrier function, controlling parasitic infections such as coccidiosis, supporting microbial diversity and preventing dysbacteriosis, and reducing inflammation and endogenous loss.
From a nutritional health perspective, growers should bear in mind different anti-nutritional factors (ANFs) when formulating diets. These are substances which can affect health and production and can interfere with nutrient utilisation.
An example of an ANF is β-mannans. These are intensively anti-nutritional and a potent stimulator of a Feed-Induced Immune Response (FIIR). They are commonly found in vegetable feed ingredients, such as legumes but also cereals.
“Young chickens are very vulnerable to the ill-effects of FIIR and gut inflammation, and only low β-mannan concentrations are needed (0.20%) to trigger the immune system, making it a common problem in poultry production,” says Mr Kleyn.
This makes it important to consider the potential impact of dietary β-mannans – particularly in scenarios where rations are being reformulated with ingredients that may present a higher risk.
Return on investment
“There are tools available to counteract specific issues and while on the face of it they might seem expensive, the return on investment should be weighed-up before rejecting their use,” says Mr Kleyn.
The issue of β-mannans for example, can be counteracted by the inclusion of β-mannanase. This is a unique enzyme that removes the ANF and prevents the immune response.
Mr Kleyn adds that the higher the feed price, generally the better the return-on-investment feed additives that support improved utilisation offer. “It can be dangerous to formulate rations based on cost alone for this very reason,” he explains.
“It’s often the case that practices that make you money hold true in both good and bad times and stripping diets back in a bid to lower the cost may not yield the desired outcome in terms of profitability.”