My consulting work in the poultry industry is focused on broilers and laying hens (commercial and breeders). In that, I find myself drawn mostly towards practical issues, one of which I would like to discuss in this blog entry. It has to do with the physical texture of feed offered to commercial layer hens. As it stands, there is not such a thing as a consensus when it comes to this issue.
In some parts of the world, the whole industry is very attached to feeding mash, but in other parts, the industry seems to prefer exclusively the feeding of crumbles. Those preferring mash over crumbles point to the poor margins made by selling eggs and make a good point about the lack of strong data to justify the expense of crumbling the feed. In contrast, those who prefer to feed crumbles point to the natural habit of birds to pick larger particles of feed, thus effectively separating the ingredients in mash feed. Research results are equally confusing!
In my opinion, crumbled feed works best, but for that, crumbles must be rather durable. Otherwise, they tend to create too much dust, negating any effects. They also work well when the individual ingredients making up the feed are not of uniform size. Of course, fine grinding of feed would solve these issues, but then feed would be too prone to bridge in the silos, not to mention the extra dust in the house! Yet, when economics cannot justify the extra cost, mash would certainly be my recommendation, but here I would try to make sure ingredient particle size is not too disparate. Still, I feel I am loosing some finely ground micro-ingredients below the feeder chain.
Having said all that, do the birds really care? They are fed a limited amount of feed, and as such they are going to consume all they find. So, mash should not be a problem, correct?
Care to join the confusion?