December 16, 2018

5.1 Nutrients & Hen feeding

Feed costs often represent more than 70 % of the production cost of a dozen eggs.  In order for birds to reach their genetic potential, they must be supplied with the appropriate nutritional requirements and good welfare and management practices. The priority is to ensure that pullets develop the ability to eat feed in order to increase feed intake (FI) and subsequent growth potential and egg quality during the early and later stages of life.

Best practice suggests that the feed offered to the pullets should be in crumb form and contain essential nutritive ingredients to enhance feed conversion to increased weight and subsequent egg production.  Some key considerations:-

  • Amino acids, calcium and fatty acids are some of the critical dietary ingredient in a laying hen diet and must be maintained throughout its life. Amino acids promote protein deposition by converting feed utilization into increased growth in preparation for the laying period.
  • Calcium is paramount for the growth of the medullary bone before the first ovulation and egg shell strength (Dacke et al., 1993).
  • In conjunction with this, during the laying period, feed enriched with polyunsaturated fats is also desirable to increase FI and accordingly egg weight.

While the nutritive content of a laying hen diet is a major factor influencing optimum growth performance and egg quality and quantity, the welfare and management of laying hens is also a crucial factor to consider.  Factors to consider are the breed, strain, colony size, temperature requirement, humidity, ventilation, lighting, platforms, perches, vaccination, biosecurity and record keeping.

Improvements have emerged in feed technology including:-

  • balanced feeding
  • precision feeding (phase feeding)
  • optimal addition of amino acids  mineral micronutrients,
  • the use of enzimes for better feed
  • producing less emissions to the environment