Water Quality Affects Health & Performance

Water has many important functions in the body including temperature regulation, transport of nutrients, lubrication, transport of waste materials, involvement in nearly all metabolic processes, and milk production. A lack of water can decrease feed consumption, reduce growth rate, and decrease the efficiency of feed utilization. For swine, a water deficit for lactating sows can reduce milk production, which can influence the growth of piglets and/or cause excess weight loss of sows.

Water Quality is Important

In addition to water availability, water quality is vital to good animal performance.

Pigs do not tolerate high levels of sulfates well and performance can be reduced and diarrhea present when sulfates exceed 7,000 ppm in water.  Newly weaned pigs are most susceptible to problems associated with high sulfate levels. Even though pigs can adapt to high sulfate water over time, the newly weaned pig is just starting to consume water and would not be adapted to water containing high levels of sulfates. Sulfates can also have a laxative effect in poultry thereby degrading health and performance.

Nitrate and nitrite levels in water can be a potential problem for pigs. High levels of nitrate in water occur most often due to runoff from heavily fertilized fields. Nitrates and nitrites in water can reduce overall animal performance by impairing vitamin A utilization. However, the level required to reduce performance is quite high (>750 mg nitrate/liter of water).  Practically, nitrates in water should be less than 300 ppm and nitrites should be less than 10 ppm.

The toxicity of nitrates to poultry varies with the age of the birds, older birds being more tolerant. Levels in excess of 50 mg per liter for chickens and 75 mg per liter for turkeys have proven harmful in laboratory trials. A recent study with commercial broilers showed that nitrate levels greater than 20 mg per liter had a negative affect on weight, feed conversion, or performance. Levels between 3 and 20 mg per liter were suspected to affect performance. Nitrites are toxic at much lower levels than nitrates; concentrations as low as 1 mg per liter can be toxic.1

The presence of coliforms in water is indicative of fecal contamination. Levels of coliforms greater than 4 ppm suggest a contamination level, which can cause health concerns. At the very least, this level of coliforms can reduce flow rate or even block water lines.

Spring Time Quality Check

Spring is an excellent time to check your well water. Melting snow, rain, and manure applications can all affect water quality. Nitrogen in spring manure and fertilizer applications becomes nitrates in the soil. Spring rains and snow can push those nitrates into your water. Just like nitrates, bacteria from manure can find its way into your well also.

Wenger Feeds’ Pullet and Flock Services Technicians recommend testing the water in a layer house 1-2 times a year. Pullet flocks are tested at the beginning of each flock or about 2 times per year. Samples are tested for E. Coli and coliforms. If the test shows the water is contaminated, it is treated then retested to ensure the treatment was successful.

Our service teams recommend flushing between flocks. A cleaner/disinfect  is recommended to clean the lines and remove bacteria.

Some farms also flush their lines daily in the summer’s hottest days to keep fresh, cool water flowing to the birds.
Wenger Feeds’ lab offers an array of water tests including hardness, pH, iron, nitrates, sulfates, E.coli, and total coliform. Sterile water collection bottles are provided. Contact your account leader or see our web site for a full list of available services and pricing: www.wengerfeeds.com/lab.html

1. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.

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Influence of Feed Storage on the Nutritional Value of Feed

Kevin Herkelman, Ph.D., Nutrition Services Manager

Feed delivery tickets will soon contain a “Best if Used Within 2 Weeks of Delivery” statement. Animals rely on humans to provide feed that supplies critical nutrients needed for optimal performance and health. To supply these critical nutrients, feed should be used as quickly as possible to maximize its nutritional value.

It is important to understand the factors which can influence the nutritional value of feed. Exposure to air, heat, moisture, and light all reduce the nutritional value of feed. In addition, there are certain interactions between nutrients and certain processing methods, which can cause a reduction in the nutritional value of feed.

Oxygen in the air can destroy nutrients through oxidation. Even the simple process of grinding grain exposes nutrients to air and starts the process of reducing the nutritional value of the grain. Unsaturated fats, the amino acid lysine, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin C and biotin are nutrients all susceptible to destruction through oxidation. Riboflavin is especially sensitive to destruction by light. Minerals in feed are capable of interacting with Vitamin C and thiamin, especially in the presence of moisture, to cause chemical destruction of these two vitamins. Amino groups (component of amino acids/protein) can interact with sugars like glucose or oxidized fats to reduce the digestibility of amino acids and protein to the animal.

Fungal growth and/or the subsequent production of mycotoxins can greatly reduce the nutritional value of feed. Often times, additional moisture and/or heat provide the optimal conditions for fungal growth and the subsequent reduction in nutritional value of the feed. In addition, any insects in grain can damage and destroy the nutrients contained in feed.

Average Industry Vitamin Stability in Pelleted Feed

Average Industry Vitamin Stability in Pelleted Feed.
As pelleted feed ages, the efficacy of the vitamins it contains begins to diminish.

The chart shows the average retention of vitamins in pelleted feed. This chart illustrates the change in nutrient content (vitamins in this example) over time. Within a month, the average retention of vitamins in feed is compromised. Under more severe conditions, nutrient content decreases even more rapidly.

On farm, there are several recommendations to help preserve the nutritional value of feed. All feed should be stored at cool temperatures (below 77°F), when possible. This is not possible in outdoor bins in the summer, but it should be kept in mind that the nutrient value of feed is going to degrade quicker under these conditions compared to more moderate temperatures.

Feed should also be kept dry to prevent fungal and bacterial growth. Feed bin lids need to be kept closed and any access points, which may allow moisture to get into the bin must be sealed. In addition, preventative measures should be in place to prevent rodents and insects from getting into feed bins.

In summary, the “Best If Used Within 2 Weeks of Delivery” statement to be added to the feed delivery tickets is designed to encourage producers to use feed in a timely manner to promote optimal animal performance and health. The time frame established helps balance nutritional value of the feed with practical on-farm management of feed.

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Pullet Services: A Good Start for a Profitable Flock

A healthy pullet is the starting point for any successful and profitable flock, and Wenger Feeds has the experience, facilities, and capacity to raise productive cage and cage-free flocks of both white and brown birds.

Service technicians have over 160 years of combined experience in pullet service, and the company has raised pullets for over 30 years.

Facilities, Capabilities, Staff & Structure
Wenger Feeds Pullet Services utilizes a team of service technicians and one vaccination service technician to supervise pullet growing, administer custom vaccination programs, monitor feeding and lighting programs, and perform regular flock service.
In addition, the team is backed by a Quality Assurance Department including a fully-staffed laboratory that, among other analyses, offers blood testing to monitor bird health.

Wenger Feeds Pullet Services grows 8 million pullets a year by contracting pullet growing services from over 50 independent family farms in Central Pennsylvania. Pullet growing facilities include a variety of cage and cage-free barns to match any layer house.

With experience and expertise in growing pullets, efficient support facilities, and the capacity to grow almost any size flock, Wenger Feeds Pullet Services is the right choice.

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Importance of Feed Mixing Time in Feed Production

At Wenger Feeds, every phase of the production process is verified for accuracy and efficiency. The mixing process is no exception. Properly maintaining the mixer is achieved through a cooperative effort of the Mill Operator, Maintenance Department, and Quality Assurance Department.

The Mill Operator monitors the day-to-day operation of the mixer, immediately reporting any malfunctions. The Maintenance Department schedules regular preventative maintenance work on the mixer such as oil changes and lubrication along with inspection of the mixer tub, gates, and ribbon.

The Quality Assurance department is responsible for scheduling annual mixer tests to ensure that proper disbursement of the feed ingredients is taking place during the mixing process. The amount of time required to blend feed ingredients together and the total volume of ingredients that are permitted in the mixer at one time is determined by the manufacturer with information provided by the feed mill and then verified by the results of the mixer tests.

Modern mixers are set up to blend ingredients together in a short period of time. Ingredients that are allowed to stay in the mixer too long can actually become segregated. Also, if the mixer is over-filled or under-filled, proper blending cannot take place and the ingredients may become segregated.

In addition to the annual mixer tests, random test are conducted on feed samples for proper medication and vitamin levels along with tests for protein, calcium, phosphorus, and salt. If any results are found to be out of specification, they are investigated to discover the source of the problem and adjustments are made as required. Monitoring the performance of the mixer is just one of the steps taken to ensure that the feed is properly blended so each animal receives a balanced diet.

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Feed Additives for Antibiotic-Free Production

Dr. Kevin Herkelman, Nutrition Services Manager

Demand for antibiotic-free (ABF) eggs, poultry meat, and pork continues to increase in the United States. This increased demand consequently increases the demand for animals produced in ABF production systems. The most common question related to ABF feed programs is how to effectively replace antibiotics and maintain animal performance and health. Direct-fed microbials, prebiotics, essential oils, and enzymes are just a few of the products available to help producers meet production and profitability goals without antibiotics.

Direct-fed microbials (DFM’s) or probiotics are products containing live, viable microorganisms, including bacteria or yeast. DFM’s improve animal performance by modifying the microorganisms in the intestinal tract. In order to achieve improved performance, the DFM’s must be able to colonize the intestinal tract in sufficient quantities to compete with potential pathogenic or “bad” microorganisms. Since DFM’s are live organisms, they must be protected from steam and pressure when added to feed manufactured as pellets. This is achieved by spraying the DFM product on pellets as a liquid, post-pelleting, or using a DFM product protected with a fat-based coating.

Prebiotics are compounds promoting the growth of gut bacteria but are not living organisms.

Since prebiotics are not live organisms, they are less sensitive to potential destruction by steam and moisture in the pelleting process. There are two common types of prebiotics used in poultry and swine feeds, oligosaccharides and beta-glucans.

Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates with 3 to 10 simple sugars linked together. These carbohydrates are not well digested by the animal as an energy source. However, they can be excellent substrate and energy source for “good” bacteria (i.e. Lactobacillus spp.). Mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) containing products are the most common type of oligosaccharide used in poultry and swine feeds. Beta-glucans are designed to enhance the immune system by binding to and activating macrophages. Macrophages are cells which engulf and the digest pathogens or other cellular debris.

Essential oils are concentrated products containing volatile aromatic compounds derived from plants. Historically, essential oils have been used in human nutrition as flavors and/or preservatives. Essential oils typically have a strong odor and include oregano, cinnamaldehyde (cinnamon), carvacrol (oregano or thyme), thymol (thyme), and limonene (lemon rind or other citrus fruits). Each essential oil has a specific mode of action, but as a whole, essential oil products have been demonstrated to improve animal performance through improved palatability, antimicrobial effects, enzyme stimulation in the digestive tract, and improved nutrient digestibility.

Enzymes are biological molecules that increase the rate of chemical reactions. Enzymes are commonly given the –ase designation at the end of the name to identify the compound the enzyme acts upon. For example, phytase enzymes act on phytate to primarily release phosphorus and proteases act on proteins to release amino acids.

Animal feed, regardless of type, must contain the substrate the enzyme acts upon for the enzyme to be effective. Enzyme additions to ABF feeds can provide a couple of unique benefits. Enzymes can improve the digestibility of nutrients in feed, which in turn reduces the quantity of undigested feed available to pathogenic bacteria in the cecum or large intestine. In addition, enzymes can break down targeted anti-nutritional factors in feed ingredients, which in turn can reduce the negative effects of the anti-nutritional factors on the performance and health of the animal.

Wenger Feeds uses a combination of additive types in ABF feeding programs. A study was recently completed at the Wenger Feeds Broiler Research House to evaluate the effect of additives on the performance of broilers fed an ABF feed program. Birds were housed in a tunnel ventilated building with 37,500 birds (5 pens of 7,500 birds/pen) and fed one of three treatments for 42 days.

Treatment 1 was a control ABF feed program with no additives added for disease prevention. Treatment 2 was an ABF program with a prebiotic + an essential oil in the starter phase (days 0 to 16) and the same prebiotic + a DFM in the grower phase (days 17 to 28). Treatment 3 was an ABF program with an alternative prebiotic + the same essential oil from Treatment 2 in the starter phase and the same prebiotic from Treatment 2 + an alternative essential oil in the grower phase. All diets contained the same multi-enzyme product and a coccidiostat. The results are shown in Table 1.

Table 1.  Effect of Feed Additives on Broiler Performance and Carcass  Characteristics

Table 1. Effect of Feed Additives on Broiler Performance and Carcass Characteristics

Broilers fed either of the ABF feeding programs with additives grew faster and were heavier at slaughter than birds fed no additives. Feed conversion was improved when the prebiotics and essential oils used in Treatment 3 were added to the ABF feed program, but not when the prebiotic, essential oil and DFM combination in Treatment 2 were used. Overall, feed cost per pound of gain of birds fed the additive combination in Treatment 2 was similar to Treatment 1, but increased nearly $0.02/pound of gain when the additives from Treatment 3 were utilized.

The results of this experiment demonstrate the potential benefits of including additives in ABF feed programs. Producers must evaluate the profitability measures important to their operation to determine the best value additive program in ABF production.

The use of DFM’s, prebiotics, essential oils, and enzymes can play a role to help producers meet production goals when producing eggs and meat with ABF feed programs. There are many products available within each of these categories. Wenger Feeds has demonstrated the potential benefits of different combinations of these products in a commercial research house. Operations producing meat and eggs using an ABF production system should use cost effective products with proven efficacy (determined through research) to reach performance and profitability goals.

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Benefits of Phase Feeding Programs

Kevin Herkelman, Ph.D., Nutrition Services Manager
The tremendous increase in grain costs over the past few years has increased focus on feed programs. Even small improvements in the feed programs used to produce eggs and meat can lead to substantial savings in feed costs and dramatically improve profitability. Phase feeding is a common practice used to implement feed programs. The objective of this article is to review the benefits of phase feeding and for producers already using phase feeding programs to discuss the need to periodically review phase feeding programs to improve profitability.

One Feed to Meet Nutrient Requirements

Figure 1: One Feed to Meet Nutrient Requirements

What is phase feeding? Phase feeding is a term used to describe the feeding of several diets for a relatively short period of time to more closely match an animal’s nutrient requirements. When one diet is fed for a long period of time (Figure 1) the feed meets the nutrient requirements of the animal “on average.” However, at any given point in time, the feed is either under or over the animal’s nutrient requirements.

With this type of feeding program, we would expect animal performance to be reduced early, since the animal is not getting the nutrients required to meet established performance goals. Later, when the feed’s nutrient content is greater than the animal’s requirements, we are adding unnecessary cost to production. In fact, in some cases the excess nutrients can be detrimental to animal performance and certainly leads to excess nutrient excretion to the environment.

Phase Feeding to Meet Nutrient Requirements.

Figure 2: Phase Feeding to Meet Nutrient Requirements.

Through phase feeding (Figure 2), you more closely match the animal’s nutrient requirements and minimize the over- and under-feeding of nutrients. Ideally, to get maximum benefit from phase feeding, diets to be fed and feed budgets are established based on actual animal performance and profitability/performance goals. The correct diets and feed budgets must be established for each stage of production. Information from breeding companies about expected performance in commercial conditions can be useful in establishing expected performance.

The disadvantages of moving from one feed to a phase feeding system includes greater complexity in ordering feed and the potential need to install additional feed bins on the farm. However, with increased pressures on profitability, these disadvantages must be weighed against the benefits of improved animal performance and profitability.

A broiler feed example will be used to show the practical benefits of moving to a phase feeding system on animal performance and profitability. Let’s assume one feed is fed to a house of 40,000 broilers for 42 days. The feed meets the “average” nutrient requirements over this 42 day period and costs $400/ton. Birds average 5.5 lb at 42 days with an average feed conversion of 1.87. Feed requirements are 10.3 lb/bird (5.5 x 1.87) with a feed cost is $2.06/bird or $82,400 for the house.

To develop a phase feeding for these same broilers, we consult with the breeding company and establish a feeding program with three feeds with the same “average” price (Starter= $420, Grower= $400, Finisher= $380/ton) as the one feed program above. However, the feed budget for these 3 feeds is adjusted to match the bird’s nutrient requirements (Figure 2). Based on this information, the Starter, Grower and Finisher feeds are fed at 1, 3 and 6 lb/bird, respectively.

Since we are more closely matching the nutrient requirements of the broilers, feed conversion is improved to 1.82 during the same 42 day period with a 5.5 lb broiler weight. The phase feeding system results in a feed cost of $1.95/bird or $78,000 for the house. Total feed cost has been reduced over $4,000 for the house using the phase feeding program. This example underestimates the value of phase feeding since it assumes the same adjusted weight (which we would expect to be improved) and same mortality/morbidity (which we would also expect to be improved).

Even with phase feeding, if the diets and/or feed budget do not match expected performance, feed costs will be unnecessarily increased or animal performance will be reduced. Audits should be routinely conducted to make sure established feed budgets and diets match performance criteria established when designing feed programs.

We may want a particular diet to last two weeks based on expected/past performance, so we establish a feed budget of 2 pounds of feed per animal. However, if the 2 pounds of feed per animal actually lasts three weeks, we must investigate why. In this case, the animals are matching the feed budget but are receiving the wrong budget to achieve established performance guidelines. Being on budget with the wrong budget/wrong diet can be very costly. If this is the case, work with your nutritionist to properly match budgets/diets with performance targets.

Once the correct diets and correct feed budget are established, strict adherence to established feed budgets is a critical step to assure the proper amount of each diet is being fed. Over-feeding a budget unnecessarily increases feed costs, while underfeeding a budget reduces animal performance. Either of these situations reduces overall profitability.

Feed budgets are typically established by a nutritionist to provide a certain quantity of each diet per animal (23 lb/100 birds). Practically, feed budgets are used by producers and feed companies to provide a certain quantity of feed for an entire group of animals being fed (10 tons/group). Many times the feed budget for a group of animals is not correct, because the correct number of animals is not used in calculating the budget or animal inventory is not properly adjusted for deaths, culls, or other animal removal. Feed budgets are most effective when they match the number of animals actually being fed.

Phase feeding is an important part of establishing feed programs to meet animal performance and profitability goals. Producers not using phase feeding should consult with a nutritionist to establish the potential benefit of phase feeding for their operation. Producers who already use phase feeding should work with their nutritionist to periodically review their feed programs and adjust accordingly to meet production and profitability goals.

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Feed Bin Sanitation

By Ray Leiby, Feed Quality Coordinator

In order to keep your feed fresh and nutritious, it is important to periodically clean your feed bins and to avoid putting one type of feed on top of another.

The presence of mold in a feedstuff or completed feed does not necessarily mean that it is producing a mycotoxin. Molds will germinate, grow, reproduce, and produce mycotoxins when provided with:
Free Moisture
Free Oxygen

In addition, the length of storage and degree of microorganism containment before storage are also important. Feeds and feed ingredients, when stored under normal conditions, provide all elements necessary for microorganism growth and reproduction.

Average Industry Vitamin Stability in Pelleted Feed

Reasons to empty feed bins:

•    Maintain nutrient value of feed. (See Table)
•    Maintain structural integrity (pellet quality, uniform mix) of feed.
•    Proper feed rotation/inventory management.
•    Reduce risk of contaminants, insects, moisture, mold and toxins, and the resulting odors.
•    Proper application of medications.
•    Less variety of feed, less chance of incorrect feed.
•    Efficiency of delivery: bigger loads = better pellet quality.
•    Build-up of old feed reduces storage capacity.
•    Increased life of bin structure.

Flow of Feed from Storage Bin

First Feed to Leave the Bin

Figure 1:
The first feed to leave the bin is directly above the bin opening. If feed remains in the bin from a previous flock or herd, it will be released first as new feed is piled on top.

• The first feed to leave the bin is directly above the bin opening. If feed remains in the bin from a previous flock or herd, it will be released first as new feed is piled on top. (Figure 1)
• As the  feed level drops in the center, feed at the outer edges of the bin begins to fall into the center. If different types of feed are piled onto each other in the bin, they will funnel out of the bin and become mixed. (Figure 2)

Feed Mixing

Figure 2:
As the feed level drops in the center, feed at the outer edges of the bin begins to fall into the center. If different types of feed are piled onto each other in the bin, they will funnel out of the bin and become mixed.

• If bin is not completely emptied, feed may remain in the area of the bin shoulders. (Figure 3) • Old feed will become trapped if new feed is placed in the bin prior to completely emptying the bin.

Suggested Management Procedures

1. Keep bins dry. Moisture and warmth promote mold growth. 2. Repair any bin leaks.
3. Inspect bin lids for proper seal.
4. Rotate feed in bins to allow each bin to stand empty whenever possible.
5. Remove all caked and moldy feed to prevent buildup.
6. Avoid returning left-over feed from the farm as it may serve as a source of contamination in the feed mill. Please note: In order to prevent contamination, feed removed from the farm is not permitted to return to Wenger Feeds’ mills.

7. Wash and air-dry bins at least two times per year—ideal times are late spring and early fall. Empty the boot and wash and dry it as well.
8. Goal: Use only one feed type at a time per bin.

Feed stuck in shoulder of feed bin

Figure 3:
If bin is not completely emptied, feed may remain in the area of the bin shoulders.

9. Maintain fill-system in good state of repair—avoid the “duct tape” syndrome and replace worn tube augers.
10. Document all cleaning procedures. Documents provide evidence of cleaning and a record of cleaning frequency.
In summary, proper farm bin management will improve animal health and feed efficiency while lowering equipment maintenance and replacement costs, which will improve your bottom line.

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