Friday, March 6, 2015

BROILER STOCK FEED: part 1: Factory Made

Agriculture in Zambia 10: The first part of the chapter on feed of what hopefully soon shall be the smart guide for broiler rearing in Zambia. This issue mostly is about factory stock feed. Its sequel is about home made feed.

Version: 6 March 2015
Text by: Bert Witkamp

Chapter 5        BROILER FEED

The cost of feed is by far the largest single cost in rearing confined broilers. Feed management and the quality of feed are also major factors in success or failure in broiler rearing. An underfed chicken is underweight and perhaps unhealthy; a wrongly fed chicken may get or be sick, taste poorly and be harmful to the health of the consumer.  

5.1              Sorts of Feed

Broilers, in principle, have access to three kinds of food:
       i.        Natural food such as insects, seeds and leaves.
      ii.        Factory made stock feed.
    iii.        Homemade stock feed.
Stock feed is made in three different varieties: starter, grower and finisher. Each of these varieties is formulated according to changing nutrient needs during the fast forward sort of live of the broiler.

Natural Food
Option 1, natural food, is only substantially available to free range chickens, or chickens kept in a movable coop. The chickens forage this food and it therefore is an activity engaging the muscular system, instinct and senses of the broiler. The foraged food is supplemented by regular stock feed; either factory or home made.
Broilers from different hatcheries or batches have considerable variety in appetite for natural greens by broilers – some hatcheries produce chicks that have hardly any interest in fresh vegetation and others do. You can try to supplement confined broilers with greens – they might pick any green including grass. Cabbage leaves and all sorts of indigenous wild vegetables are eaten by some with great enthusiasm. You thus provide variety to the menu as well as fresh, natural nutrients. Older birds are likely to also consume surplus or damaged fruits from the garden such as guava’s, banana’s or avocados. Just throw some in the house or yard and see if the broilers go for it or not.

Commercial stock feed
Most backyard farmers use industrially produced stock feed and so do many small scale farmers. Commercial feed is made by specialised stock feed producers, such as National Milling, Tiger Feeds, Nutrifeed, Novatek, Choma Milling, Yielding Tree and others. Broiler stock feed is a sophisticated product formulated to deliver you a 1.6 to 2+ kg dressed weight broiler in six to seven weeks time. Examples of such feed formula’s are in the 2007 Livestock Services publication – including some medical additives common in industrial production. Stock feed producers are guided by the following basic principles:
  • Availability of raw materials and other ingredients.
  • Cost of raw materials and other ingredients.
  • Quality of raw materials and other ingredients.
  • Combination of ingredients such that maximum weight gain is achieved in the shortest period of time.
  • Good Food – Weight Conversion (FCR) ratio (meaning maximum conversion of feed into bodily weight gain).
  • Carcass characteristics (e.g. meat quality, fattiness, colour).
  • Cost effectiveness of production.
  • Competitive production (effects mostly price but also reflects consumer satisfaction).
  • Market availability and demand.
  • Profitability.
  • Legal regulation and standardisation within the industry.

Stock feed production practically is a trade off between various factors so as to arrive at a product that is competitively priced, does its job of delivering a weighty chicken in a short time without too many chicks falling by the wayside and that yields profit for the owners of the plant.
Factory stock feed producers do not provide you with the details of feed composition and you therefore do not know the composition of the main ingredients and of the additives. The main ingredients in Zambia invariably are maize and soya products, together accounting by weight for 75 to 85% of feed composition. Other natural organic ingredients in factory feed are or might be sunflower or sunflower cake, fish meal, bone meal, blood meal and meat meal. Commercial feed contains a small amount of a synthetic (that is, factory made) essential amino acid called methionine if it is insufficiently present in the natural feed components. Feed also contains small amounts of minerals: salt and possibly ground limestone and/or calcium phosphate. The additives are a package of substances which act like boosters or growth enhancers. These are or might be medical substances (antibiotics and coccidiostats), trace minerals, and hormones or enzymes that enhance food-weight conversion ratio’s (meaning these hormones or enzymes make your chicks gain more weight using the same amount of feed) and growths stimulants such as vitamins. Of these additives the minerals and vitamins may be classified as “normal” food supplements, enzymes appear to be harmless and hormones should be banned.
The permanent addition of antibiotics and coccidiostats is considered necessary in the industrial production of broilers to reduce risks of loss by disease. The same applies to small scale broiler rearing and in part serves to make up for poor management practices. The preventive administration of certain antibiotics also is supposed to improve the feed-weight conversion ratio. Hormones affecting food conversion are or might be added because of the economic motive to save money on feed and to keep the rearing period as short as possible. The use of these hormones in broiler feed is forbidden in the Western world and its effectiveness in better broiler food-weight conversion rates is disputed.
Commercial stock feed may include “slaughter waste” such as ground up bones (bone meal), meat meal or blood meal. Bone meal (mostly from slaughtered cows) must be sterilized before usage as an ingredient in feed. Blood meal is dried, processed and powdered blood, also usually from slaughtered cows. It is not allowed in the West to feed blood meal to broilers that are to be organically raised.
Note that all pesticides (i.e., insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) present in stock feed ingredients shall be consumed by the chicken and possibly ultimately by the human consumer at the end of the food chain. Feed may also contain fungicides to prevent mold in storage. Imported soya or maize or their products used for feed may be of the GMO variety. Presently in Zambia it is forbidden to grow GMO maize or soya, but not in the Republic of South Africa.
Check the manufacturing date when you buy feed – feed should be fresh.
By far most broiler farmers have no option but to feed their broilers on industrially produced stock feed. And indeed, that option has major advantages. The feed is ready-made available in the shops and offers a balanced diet. The main disadvantage is that you don’t know what you are feeding your broilers particularly concerning insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, food preservatives, medication, growth promoters, slaughter waste, bacterial contamination and possibly GMO products.

You can and should feed your broilers at least during ten days before slaughter on so-called Withdrawal Finisher (that is finisher without pharmaceuticals) or any regular finisher that is guaranteed free of pharmaceuticals. You need to check this with your stock feed supplier. You should not routinely add vitamins and medication to the feed as these are already in the feed. Only provide extra vitamins at arrival, during vaccinations or when broilers are sick. Provide medication only when birds are sick after having been advised by a professional.

There is no point in preparing your own feed or purchasing homemade brands unless this can be done professionally using quality ingredients. Stick to commercial feed till you have a good, ecologically sound do-it-yourself alternative.

Starter, grower and finisher.
Broiler feed is composed of starter, grower and finisher varieties. These varieties correspond to changing nutritional needs of the growing broiler and in particular concern the protein – energy ratio of the feed and possibly the sources of the protein. The broiler, as a day old chick, needs much protein for body building and little energy for body energy. After six weeks the situation is the opposite: by the time the broiler is ready for the market it utilises most of its feed intake for energy and a small portion for growth. Data below are from the 2007 Ross manual and apply to the 6 – 7 week “heavy broiler” schedule.

1 -10
11 - 24
15 - slaughter
Crude protein %
22 -25
21 -23
19 - 23
Digestible protein %
Min. 14.2
Energy in kcal
 Table 1: Protein and energy requirements for 2 to 2.5 kg broiler.

Crude protein (CP) is protein as in the source (such as soya meal) and digestible protein (DP) is protein that the broiler actually can absorb. Meeting the protein requirement is a major problem for stock feed manufacturers and this is reflected in the actual protein content of the feed. This generally is lower than the recommended percentages stated above; reason is the cost of suitable protein rich ingredients.
Adhere to the predescribed order of broiler feed: first starter, then grower and lastly finisher.  The number of days for each of these feeds depends on:
1.   Actual feed composition of the feed you use (check the tag for the protein %, the stated % refers to crude protein) and
2.   The kind of chicken you want to grow and thereby the rearing period.

The schedule of table 1 above is based on an optimum protein diet. Practically the protein content of many brands is less - meaning that the number of days on starter feed shall be more than 10 days. Nutri Feed Starter, for example, contains 20% CP and you are advised by their current flyer to give starter for 18 days, followed by 10 days of grower after which you feed finisher till sale or slaughter. You should therefore read information leaflets of your stock feed supplier so as to establish the best feeding regime for your broilers.

Finisher and finisher
Finisher differs not only from starter and grower in CP %, it also is or should be different as far as ingredients are concerned. Finisher should not contain fish meal as it imparts a fishy taste to the meat. It is better if finisher does not include slaughter waste products, blood and meat meal in particular. You need to give at least ten days of finisher to flush out any pharmaceuticals that have been added to the feed; this pharmaceutical free finisher is referred to as “withdrawal finisher.” Some companies, however, manufacture finisher without pharmaceuticals and still label their finisher just plainly finisher. Other companies produce finisher labelled finisher that contains pharmaceuticals including antibiotics. Some companies produce a special pharmaceutical free finisher called withdrawal finisher – implying that their regular finisher does include these substances.

You need to know what the pharmaceutical status of your finisher is and ensure that your broilers are fed pharmaceutical free feed for at least ten days before slaughter. Failure to do so means that you are putting your clients involuntarily on a diet of antibiotics and possibly other harmful medicine. In that event you shall also be contributing to the increasingly serious problem of bacterial resistance against antibiotic treatment in human beings.

Stock Feed Concentrate.
Stock Feed concentrate is regular feed without maize products. When you mix concentrate with coarsely ground maize (“masembe”) in the proportion of 1 concentrate to 2 maize you get regular feed. It saves money especially if you can buy the maize cheaply at the beginning of the harvesting season or if you grow the maize yourself. Masembe is the coarsest particle size the hammer mill can grind. Chicken feed should not be powdery. Masembe sometimes is used to feed chicks upon arrival as some feeds give the chicks digestive problems when they start eating.

Manufactured feed plus extra maize or other supplement  
Many broiler farmers are in the habit of diluting (“reducing the density of”) factory feed with third grade mealie meal (“sweepings”) or maize bran. Generally it is better not to tamper with starter and grower feed – unless of course you have run out of money and cannot afford the feed. After all diluted feed is better than no feed, but weight gain inevitably shall be retarded. Less harmful is to add third grade maize or coarsely ground maize to finisher, especially if your birds already have the desired weight and you are just waiting for a buyer. At that stage you can also add sunflower and processed soya – see also below under homemade feed.

Homemade feed.
The third feeding option is to make your own feed by mixing ingredients that you have purchased or have cultivated. This option is discussed in the sequel to this text.