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CHICKEN TALK- Importance Of Proper Feed Storage & Handling

Broiler & Layer Chickens Feed Feeding

It is important to pay attention to the management of our broilers during rearing to attain targeted weights. Issues to do with proper management of flocks have been stressed enough times to help enhance the profitability of the broiler business. This has seen most farmers paying very close and strict attention to good management practices like bio-security as well as vaccination programs that allow their broilers to grow to their full capacity as well as lowering the risks of high mortalities due to poor management.

As anyone in the business of broilers, backyard, commercial or otherwise, would know, feed costs account for about 80% of the total capital injected into the business. This is why taking good care of the feed is as important as taking care of the broilers. Because animal feed is a semi-perishable item, it will spoil or expire after a given period (6 months for National Foods feeds). Poor handling and storage can however reduce the shelf life to a much shorter period than this. Several factors contribute to the spoilage of feed. A few of these factors are discussed in this article.

A well balanced ration for the far off and steam up cows (21 days before calving) is critical in ensuring feed intake. Feed intake is a key driver for a successful transition, but care must be taken to ensure the correct raw materials are used to prevent fat cows calving down. Altering the calcium metabolism via DCAD (dietary cation anion difference) goes a long way to combating milk fever cases, but if the intakes are insufficient due to unpalatability of the anionic salts for example, the pre-partum ration output on paper is worthless. Management and animal husbandry principles play just as important a role in ensuring feed intake, such as adequate feed bunk space (minimum 0.6m/cow).

Vermin
The feed can be spoiled due to an infestation by rodents or insects which act as carriers or vectors of diseases from one area to another. These can cause major damage if not checked, and this can have detrimental effects when then fed to the broilers. How do we reduce insect and rodent infestations? Rotate stock and apply the first in first out principle to avoid over sitting of bags in the storage area. To achieve this, feed should be stored in an orderly manner that allows ease to read expiry dates. Also, feed should not be stacked too close to the walls as this will encourage infestations by vermin. Keep doors locked and input rat traps on either side of storage houses, and look out for vermin urine or fecal matter which can spoil/dampen the feed. Once you catch sight of a single weevil, fog the storage house with approved insecticides. It is also important to maintain good housekeeping by cleaning up spilled feed and keeping feed away from damp areas.

Micro-organisms
The feed can also be damaged by micro-organisms such as mould and bacteria. Growth of these micro-organisms is encouraged by warmth and high moisture and they produce mycotoxins that can cause poor growth and death in worst cases. As feed manufacturers, we always maintain low final feed moistures and this reduces the chances of molding. How can the farmer prevent micro-organisms infestation on-farm? The ultimate key to beating micro-organisms will be to keep feed in a cool and dry place. It is also wise to get rid of poor drainage areas which act as a breeding ground for micro-organisms and insects. Any spoiled feed should be thrown away. Trying to salvage from a bag may affect the birds' overall performance as chances of the feed having high microorganism counts are high. Feeders and drinkers should be kept clean as they too can harbor disease-causing micro-organisms.

Rancidity
Rancidity, which is the spoilage of fats and oils in the feed, can be a major cause of feed spoilage. This process occurs when oxygen chemically breaks down fat to produce undesirable by-products that cause feed rejection due to the off-flavor and smell. To minimize this chemical process, nutritionists add anti-oxidants into the feed. How can the farmer minimize rancidity? They can do this by storing feed in a cool area with a shade so that the feed is not exposed to direct sunlight which encourages the chemical process of rancidity.

Nutrient loss
The biggest determinant of a feed’s shelf life is the nutrients. A loss in nutrients automatically means the feed has lost its ability to perform as needed. Vitamins begin to degrade with time and become deficient eventually. Nutritionists add more of the vitamins to cushion the broilers over the 6 months while the feed is in storage. We also try to use stable vitamins that are more resistant to breakdown in the feed. How can the farmer minimize nutrient losses? By storing the feed in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated place. This is because high temperatures and humidity further speed deterioration and sunlight can cause instability of the vitamins.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

  • The broilers must get access to fresh feed all the time hence the “FIRST IN, FIRST OUT principle should be practiced.
  • NEVER use expired or spoiled feed.
  • Practise good housekeeping (by introducing a cleaning program in your storage area).

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