A delayed intake of nutrients can lead to adverse effects on growth and egg production. A new micro-pellet, specially designed for pullets in the first two weeks after hatch, will overcome this issue.
The key to a successful start in the life of a chicken is in the feed. The diet should meet all the nutritional requirements right from the start and ingredients should be easily digestible. But we only gain the benefits of early feeding practices if the day-old chick is encouraged to eat the feed presented, and hence reach the desired feed intake levels.
Optimal feed intake depends on many factors, including environmental temperature, diet nutrient density, and physical feed quality (Jafarnejad et al., 2020). When the temperatures rise, animals tend to reduce feed intake levels (heat stress). When we talk about diet nutrient density for young pullets, we must aim for a diet that contains a lot of highly digestible protein and high levels of energy to meet the nutrient demands for the high (functional) growth levels, prevent problems in the underdeveloped digestive system, and compensate for the low nutrient reserves.
Physical feed quality (feed presentation) is the form and shape in which we present the nutrients to the bird. Feed can be offered as mash, crumble, or pellet. Mash is a form of a complete feed that is finely ground. Crumble is made by pelleting the mixed ingredients and then crushing the pellet to a consistency coarser than mash. Pelleted feed is produced by converting mash into hard dry pellets with different diameters. In the broiler industry, the use of pellets throughout the whole production period is quite common in most regions. In the layer industry, we see mostly crumble and mash feed used.
To date, many studies have looked at the differences between pellets, mash and crumble and their effect on animal growth and performance. Most of them are focused on broilers, but also more work has been done lately to investigate the effect of pellets on layer performance. Work by Wan et al. (2021) for example showed that the egg-laying rate of both Hy-Line grey and Hy-line brown hens fed with the pellet diet were higher than those fed the mash diet. This study was done in 25-week-old layers, but there is also much evidence that pellets have benefits for young birds (broilers and layers). And this makes sense if we look at nature, where foraging and preference for small particles is embedded in the feeding instinct of newly hatched birds (Gajdon et al., 2015).
The younger the animal, the smaller the preferred feed particle size becomes. Cerrate et al. (2008) showed that feeding a small pellet or crumble resulted in higher body weight on day seven, compared to the birds fed larger pellets or mash. Work by Idan et al. (2023) indicated that feeding a micro-pellet or crumbles to broiler chicks improved feed intake, bodyweight, and feed conversion ratio, but reduced relative gizzard weight. Removing the fines resulted in further improvement in bodyweight for broilers fed crumbles.
With the knowledge we have today on feeding preferences and nutrient needs of young chicks, the use of small pellets and early feeding practices is increasing in the poultry industry. This has been translated into commercially available (pelleted) pre-starter diets, mainly for broilers. However, healthy, and strong development of bones and organs and solid body weight improvement are relevant for broilers and layers. Nevertheless, the use of a pelleted pre-starter in young pullets is less widespread, as layer integrations do not have the process or capacity to make it on-site. Pre-starter diets were also not available commercially, due to a lack of knowledge about the real benefits of it in layers. Until now. Trouw Nutrition did the research and has developed Erliva PullyCare, an innovative pre-starter feed that has been optimised for nutritional profile, ingredients, and physical form.
This pre-starter diet contains a well-balanced ingredient selection, backed by the latest knowledge on the kinetics of protein and fibre digestion. Research showed a positive effect of Erliva PullyCare on bodyweight development, compared to mash and crumble (Figure 1). This is important, as a fast bodyweight gain from an early age has a positive effect on start of lay, average egg size and persistency of peak production. The pre-starter also increases bird size, and hence bone size. Longer bones are equipped with a larger calcium reservoir and allow for better calcium turnover, required for optimal shell calcification and eggshell quality.
Figure 1 – Improvement in bodyweight (in %) with Erliva PullyCare.
A delayed intake of nutrients (and water!) can lead to adverse effects on growth and egg production. In pullets, feed intake is particularly important in the first two weeks, as this is the period where bodyweight increases rapidly, and the skeletal framework, organs, muscles, and intestinal tract are being developed. With the introduction of Trouw Nutrition’s new pre-starter diet for pullets, poultry nutritionists and egg producers can now better optimise feed intake capacity and hence produce better layers and increase farm productivity. Using a pellet instead of mash and crumble feed has more benefits. When the bird’s step on the pellets they do not break, hence reducing dust in the poultry house and reducing feed losses. This is how we turn a micro-pellet into maximum results in layers and maximum profitability for egg producers.
References are available on request.
In the next article on PoultryWorld.net, we will delve deeper into the benefits of early nutrition for pullets.