This is certainly not a new theme, but it keeps coming up in discussions about practical feed management at the farm level. With ‘prestarters’ I mean the special feed often provided to broilers in the first couple days post-hatching.
There are two types of prestarters. One comes in the form of paste. This is usually supplied in a limited amount in the boxes during transportation from the hatchery to the broiler house. It aims mainly to keep birds hydrated, but it also offers a good source of energy and electrolytes. The second type of prestarter is more likely the usual dry feed, but in the form of meal (usually but not always) instead of pellets. It is a fortified diet supplying extra energy, minerals, vitamins, and most importantly certain additives for enhanced gastrointestinal health.
Research and experience quite often don’t agree, and this might be a stellar case!
Although in research findings feeding prestarters has been shown to benefit broilers in terms of reduced mortality and enhanced growth, such findings are less pronounced under commercial conditions. Obviously, results depend on individual farm conditions, but criticism to the practice of feeding prestarters comes also from those advocating little need for them due to the still-strong presence of residual egg yolk in the hatched chick that keeps it hydrated and nourished for at least 48 hours post-hatch.
So, who is right, and what are your experiences? Do you use a prestarter and if yes, what type do you think brings the most return on investment?
As always, many thanks for your comments!