Kevin Herkelman, Ph.D., Nutrition Services Manager
The cost of heating poultry houses in the winter has increased over the past several years, and these costs can significantly add to the cost of raising broilers or producing eggs. Producers look for ways to reduce heat loss from buildings in order to reduce heating costs. One negative effect of tightly controlling ventilation in the winter is the potential to increase the concentration of ammonia in houses.
Ammonia is a colorless gas produced by the action of microbes breaking down the nitrogen-rich fractions of waste. Humans can typically detect the smell of ammonia at concentrations greater than 25 ppm. Poultry can be negatively influenced by long term exposure of ammonia at concentrations as low as 20 ppm.
A condition known as keratonconjuctivitis can result from exposure to high levels of ammonia.
Birds will often have matted, damp feathers on their back and be extremely sensitive to light and may even have their eyes closed or covered by their wings. Birds are often more susceptible to infections of the respiratory tract when exposed to high levels of ammonia. Damage to the mucus membranes and lung tissue is not uncommon.
Human Farm Animal Care, HFAC, and other animal welfare organizations, have established the acceptable level of ammonia present in cage free egg production houses at 10 ppm. Birds can be briefly exposed to ammonia levels of up to 25 ppm. The ammonia level must never be above 25 ppm. During the warmer times of the year (spring, summer, and early fall), this is typically not an issue since chicken houses are well ventilated at these times. However, during late fall and winter months, when little ventilation is needed or used, increased ammonia levels can be a problem.
Several published research trials have established the benefit of adding yucca schidigera extracts to diets to reduce aerial ammonia concentrations. During the times of the year when issues with higher ammonia levels are a challenge, Wenger Feeds adds yucca schidigera extract containing products to diets to help combat increased ammonia levels.
Wenger Feeds has conducted three trials over the past few winters to compare yucca schidigera products and their ability to reduce ammonia levels to acceptable levels in cage-free layer houses.
Wenger Feeds has been using a yucca product in diets during the winter in cage-free houses. We were interested in comparing the performance of the current product to another product on the market. In the first trial, the current product was used in feed for the test houses (3 locations, 2 barns per location) from October 2011, until the start of the trial in early December 2011. At the start of the trial, the 2 barns at each location were assigned to one of the two yucca products. The results for the trial are presented in Table 1.
During the test period, ammonia levels increased in both treatments. Although, both products appeared to be similar, in controlling ammonia concentrations, neither yucca product was able to keep ammonia levels below the 10 ppm threshold. Since both products appeared to be similar in their ability to control ammonia and the alternative product was lower in price, a switch was made to the alternative product.
In the second trial, we compared the “new” current product with two other alternative yucca products. This trial was conducted during late winter in 2013. Again, all of the yucca products performed similarly in controlling ammonia concentrations. However, none of the products were capable of reducing ammonia concentrations below the 10 ppm threshold.
These same three treatments were evaluated in a third trial conducted from October 2013 to March 2014. In this trial, the initial ammonia levels were at or below the 10 ppm threshold at the beginning of the trial. This was most likely due to the houses not being tightly sealed since the trial started in mid-October. As in the other trials, all products were similar in their ability to control ammonia but were unable to keep levels below the 10 ppm threshold.
In summary, high ammonia levels in poultry houses can have a negative effect on the performance and health of birds, especially in the winter when ventilation is tightly controlled. Yucca products added to the feed can be effective in preventing excessively high levels of ammonia concentrations in poultry houses. However, of the products tested, none can be used solely to keep ammonia levels below the established 10 ppm threshold.
If you would like additional information, contact us: http://www.wengerfeeds.com/contact.html
Kevin Herkelman, Ph.D., Nutrition Services Manager
It may be hard to believe, but summer is just around the corner. Now is the time to think about ways to minimize the negative effects of hot weather on sow feed intake during lactation. A summer lactation diet can keep nutrient intake up even when feed consumption is down. In addition, there are many management techniques (i.e. drip coolers, proper ventilation rates, etc.), which can help minimize reduced lactation feed intake during the summer months.
Why is maintaining lactating sow feed intake during hot weather so important?
The sow is very committed to her pigs and will do everything she can to meet their need for milk. This includes mobilizing nutrients from her body. A sow with a litter of 10 pigs produces an average of 20 to 25 lb. (~2.5 to 3 gallons) of milk per day. To produce this quantity of milk, a typical sow consumes an average of 12 pounds of feed per day during lactation. This level of feed intake still requires the typical sow to mobilize some nutrients from her body, which results in some weight loss. However, this level of weight loss is normal and has little influence on the performance of sows. If feed intake is reduced too much (i.e., hot weather), the sow is required to mobilize excessive amounts of nutrients from her body, which can have negative effects on the performance of sows.
What are the negative effects of reduced feed intake during the summer on sows?
Excessive weight loss of sows is the key negative result from reduced feed intake during the summer. Remember, the sow will do anything within her ability to support the milk needs of her piglets, including excessive mobilization of body tissue. Excessive weight loss may prevent sows from coming into heat in a timely manner, prevent sows from being bred, and, even if she is bred, may result in a smaller litter at the next lactation. If a sow loses too much weight and condition during lactation, a potentially very productive sow often needs to be culled before her prime.
What are some steps to maintain feed intake in the summer?
1. Use a Summer Lactation Diet. Even with ideal management techniques, it is difficult to completely eliminate reduced lactation feed intake during the summer. A summer lactation diet with increased nutrient density helps to meet the daily nutrient needs of the sow. For example, assume a sow requires 60 g of standardized ileal digestible (SID) lysine per day and consumes an average of 12 pounds of feed per day during non-summer months. A lactation diet formulated to contain 1.10% SID lysine will meet the daily lysine needs of a sow in this situation.
Now let’s assume average lactation feed intake is reduced to 10 lb./day during summer. A summer lactation diet containing 1.32% SID lysine will still allow the sow to meet her lysine requirements of 60 g/day, even though feed consumption is significantly reduced.
Supplemental fat in the summer lactation diet will increase the energy density of the diet. Even though sows may eat less feed during hot weather, the addition of fat to the diet generally results in an increase in the daily energy intake of the sow. This increase in energy intake helps reduce weight loss by the sow. In addition, other amino acids besides lysine, vitamin, and mineral levels may need to be increased due to the lower feed intake.
2. Keep Feed Fresh. This is important at all times but especially in the summer. Feed is more susceptible to spoilage in hot, humid conditions. The increased susceptibility of feed spoilage in the summer increases the chances that feed consumption will be reduced if feed is not fresh.
3. Feed More Often. One way to keep feed fresh is to feed more often. By feeding more often, you are also feeding smaller meals at each feeding. Sows often consume more feed daily with several smaller meals compared to one or two larger meals. Metabolically, this strategy makes sense, because heat is generated when sows digest the food they eat. A smaller meal lowers the amount of heat generated in the sow’s body at each meal. This lowers the amount of heat the sow needs to dissipate during hot weather.
4. Feed During the Cool Times of the Day. The time of day you feed lactating sows can influence feed intake. Typically, feeding during the cooler parts of the day (early morning, late night) can help improve feed intake. This strategy combined with feeding more often can further improve feed consumption. One challenge with this strategy is adapting worker’s schedules to allow for early morning and late night feedings.
5. Don’t Forget About Water. Water is a critical nutrient that we often take for granted. During hot weather, the sow’s requirement for water is dramatically increased. In addition, there is a direct relationship between water intake and feed intake. If a sow is not consuming an adequate amount of water, her consumption of feed will be reduced.
It is especially important to make sure flow rate through the nipple waterers is adequate. Nipple waterers should deliver a minimum of 1 quart of water per minute and ideally 2 quarts per minute. If flow rates are too low, sows can become very frustrated in their attempts to meet their water needs. Water temperature is also important. Research has shown that a sow will consume nearly twice as much cool water (50°F) as warmer water (80°F). The quality of water should be checked in the spring time to be sure water quality is good going into summer.
Summary Checklist for Lactation Feed Management
1. Use a summer lactation diet.
2. Feed more often.
3. Feed during the cooler parts of the day.
4. Check water quality and water flow rates in all crates. A ½ cup filled in 5 seconds is close to the ideal of 2 quarts/minute.
It is difficult to completely overcome reduced lactation feed intake resulting from hot weather. However, the use of a summer lactation diet and the feeding management steps discussed can help alleviate many of the negative performance results often seen during the summer due to reduced lactation feed intake.
©2014 Wenger’s Feed Mill, Inc.
This article originally appeared in the May-June 2014 issue of the Millogram.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.