Archive for Ostrich Nutrition

Vitamin Variability in Feed Ingredients

Newsletter No. 73 - Item 3

Originally Roche, but now DSM, irregularly produce interesting nutritional fact sheets with excellent information.  The article Nutrition at Work – Vitamin Variability (no longer available), discussed the dangers in modern nutrition of dependency on average or theoretical levels.  The article explained this very simply, including a discussion recognising that even if an ingredient samples at a certain level of vitamins, they may not be available to the animal.

This table illustrates the variability with Vitamin E comparing average and the significant range.  These variations are seen in all the vitamins and many minerals.  Today leading nutritionists supplement all the required vitamins with any vitamins contained in the ingredients taken as a bonus.


Comparative Vitamin E Conten of Various Feed Ingredients


Dry Matter Determination in Animal Feed

Newsletter No. 72 - Item 5

The “Feed Management Education Project” is a program funded by the USDA and other partners in the United States. They have a full list of different “feed management” education documents.   One is published on Understanding Dry Matter in Animal Feed.

In animal operations, feed ingredients are provided to animals according to the weight of the feed. Although nutrients in ration formulations are often described in terms of a percentage, animals require actual amounts of nutrients.  This is known as the feeding rate and covered in greater detail as it relates to ostrich in The Basics of Ostrich Production Nutrition, Part 2, one of two papers presented at The World Ostrich Congress 2002, held in Warsaw, Poland.

As can be seen in reading both articles feeding individual feed ingredients according to weight is only accurate if the moisture content of the feed is the same as it was during the ration formation period. Changes in the weight of a feed due to changes in moisture alter the nutrient concentrations supplied to the animal unless appropriate adjustments are made to accurately reflect the actual nutrient concentration of the feed ingredient.


Comparative Dry Matter of Different Feed Ingredients [source: Blue Mountain Feeds]

A variety of factors affect the moisture content of feeds. In many cases, the timing and method of harvest are the largest contributing factors to the moisture content of the feed. However, weather and environmental conditions, such as humidity, rain and snow, all affect feed moisture content. The graphic illustrates the variations between different types of ingredients.  The Green areas represent the minimum amount of dry matter, the shaded area illustrates the variations that can be experienced and the white is water.  The essential nutrients supplied by the feed - protein, energy, fat, fibre, vitamins, minerals are all contained in the Dry Matter.  The graphic therefore illustrates just how much greater weight of the total is required to be consumed to achieve the right nutrient intake as the moisture content increases.

Determining the Dry Matter content of feed provides a measure of the amount of a particular feed that is required to supply a set amount of nutrients to the animal. Increases or decreases in feed Dry Matter content result in over or under feeding of nutrients.  This is important with all animals, but particularly important with ostrich as a result of their low daily intake of feed in relation to their body weight, making them more sensitive to what may seem like minor errors or differences, when it comes to commercial levels of production.   The article Understanding Dry Matter in Animal Feed describes how to achieve this on farm with home produced grains and forage ingredients.

Genetic Influence on Feed Conversion (FCR)

Newsletter No. 69 - Item 4

The comments below refer to Pigs, but the principles are exactly the same for ostrich and illustrate just how far we have to go yet with ostrich and the opportunities when achieved:

Quote:  "Processors want to ensure they have the best pigs to suit their system and retail customers. It surprises me that producers change their genetics without consulting their customer - the processor."  says Dr Walling.

JSR has spoken to a number of processors on this issue and has found that of the three major UK processors they only knew of three producers that had contacted them prior to changing the boar lines.

"Can you imagine a company like Heinz deciding to change the type of beans in their cans without any customer research? Those keeping pigs should keep one eye on their customers' requirements," he advises. End Quote

The above is a quote from the article from the Pig Site.  That statement provides further clues on just how much work we still have to accomplish to establish ostrich as a viable industry.  That statement also provides clues to recognise just how much untapped potential there date there has been no genetic development in ostrich, not for performance or customer requirements.

Another little quote from the article that highlights the opportunities ahead for ostrich production with the right approach:

Quote:Two decades of production proof:   Dr Walling agrees that for the past couple of years producers have quite rightly focused on lines that would minimise levels of mortality. However, now that farms have a better control of PMWS producers are beginning to look at other aspects, especially given the situation with feed prices.

"Many with Hampshire lines will have seen an increase in appetite without an FCR benefit, but that is now starting to hurt financially, so they are now looking elsewhere," he addsEnd Quote

An article written by Sue Corning from PIC UK, a major pig genetic company highlights 8 points where genetics play a major role in improving efficiency.  This final point emphases how tight costings are in meat production.

Quote:  Value for money?

Look for a track record – establish what performance can be achieved, realistically. Genetics is perhaps three per cent of costs, of which perhaps up to a half will be sireline genetics. So, if the cost of production is say 120p/kg, then the sireline genetic cost per pig at 75kg deadweight is about £1.35p. An extra 50g growth per day is likely to be worth £1.50/pig and an improvement of 0.08 in FCE could be worth £1.30/pig.

When times are hard make the genetics work - it may not be one of the largest costs, but producers should ensure that they are earning the most value from it. The cost of genetics is unlikely to make the difference between a business sinking or swimming, but the right genetics certainly can. Think carefully before making a change.

It is not possible within a genetic selection programme to make changes instantaneously. So if you want it all... and you want it now... then look for established sirelines with a proven record that are delivering now, yet have further potential for the future. end quote

The majority of ostrich breeder stock traded over the years have no records and more often sold because the original farmer is leaving the industry.   The condition of the breeders and the long history of variable and often substandard management is a major variable our industry needs to address to achieve meaningful data to progress.

Alternative Feed Ingredients: An Option to Combat High Feed Prices?

Newsletter No. 69 - Item 2

One way some attempt to reduce costs is to seek alternative feed ingredients.  This has been a very common practice with Ostrich production, even when the main feed ingredients were at reasonable prices.

More recently mainstream livestock producers have been tempted to go down the route of seeking alternative, lower cost feed ingredients.   An article recently published on the Poultry Site discusses this very topic.  The article concludes:

Quote:  Alternative ingredients should always receive full consideration for use in feed formulas, not only in times of elevated prices. However, new sources of any ingredient should be submitted for laboratory evaluation prior to purchase and use in formulation, and possible limitations considered.

It is questionable whether significant savings will be realized from the use of alternative ingredients. Although special relationships can sometimes be developed between supplier and feed manufacturer, prices of ingredients of similar nutrient content almost always rise and fall in tandem.

The unfortunate reality of alternative ingredients is quite simple: there are no inexpensive train-loads of either a new grain in Manitoba or an undiscovered oilseed in Mississippi. End Quote

During the discussion the article states:

Quote: Exactly what constitutes an alternative ingredient is an open question. To some in the feed industry, any energy or protein source other than corn, soybean meal and fat is taken to be alternative. A better working definition of an alternative ingredient would be one:

  1. that has not previously been used on a regular basis
  2. whose nutrient composition has yet to be fully defined or
  3. for which maximum level of inclusion is unclear

Each of these points is deserving of comment.   End quote

All ingredients must provide commercially viable performance in the animal:

- number of viable eggs laid
- fertility and hatchability of those eggs
- survivability
- days taken to slaughter
- feed conversion (FCR)
- quality of the meat

The following table is a guide to productive, less productive and non-productive ingredients for ostrich as described here.


Productive Charactheristics of Feed Ingredients for Ostrich [source: Blue Mountain Feeds]

Another very important section in the full article and may also help understand why feed ingredients are so critical to the success or failure of a livestock production enterprise:

Quote: Nutrient Content

There are very few alternative ingredients that are not already known to the feed industry. Their respective nutrient compositions are reported in standard tables of ingredient composition, and in the scientific literature.

However, such ingredients are often produced in relatively small facilities with variations in manufacturing procedures. A frequent result is that the same ingredient may vary markedly in nutrient composition when procured from different sources. A prime example is dried distillers grains plus solubles (DDGS), which is currently produced at more than one hundred and twenty locations in the US alone. The protein content of meals from these plants varies from less than 26 to over 29 per cent. If variation of this magnitude (about 10%) were to exist in soybean meal, the high and low protein samples would not even be sold as the same ingredient. End Quote

When evaluating the cost of feed "the cost per unit of production" is the important measure, the "cost per tonne" is usually irrelevant to this aim.  Therefore it makes sense that production should be geared to the markets available with known slaughter dates.  This aspect has been lacking in many ostrich production enterprises, especially challenting to achieve when starting a new ostrich production buisiness.

The Importance of Gut Health

Newsletter No. 67 Item 4

This item discussed an article under the subject title : Gut Health: Is Anything More Important in Turkey Production?   This article was published during the month of publication of this newsletter, October 2008. When reading this article you can substitute Turkey for Ostrich as it is totally accurate to the issues that we have advised need to be addressed with ostrich for the past 10 years and longer. It is also important to adjust some of the timescales, like incubation, as these are obviously different between the species. The principles discussed are exactly the same and still as relevent in 2013..

The opening discussions focus on the various bacterial infections that are prevalent in intensive agriculture. With ostrich production as new as it is, relatively little work has been done to date with ostrich on vaccinations and other control treatments. However, the best controls are ensuring the right balance of ingredients in the feed to maintain the gut at the correct Ph levels, operating to high standards of biosecurity, management and minimising stress.

We have mentioned the importance of optimising feed conversion as one way to control feed costs, which is even more important with the feed costs at their current high levels. The following quotation confirms this advice; remember, turkey production today is well advanced compared to Ostrich producers’ current ability to optimise feed conversion.

Quote: And with feed costs increasing, even one point lost in feed conversion is an economic challenge.  Gut health issues can result in loss of feed conversion, uniformity, weight, rate of gain and higher condemnation rates. Therefore, prevention of gut enteric challenges can result in significant savings. End Quote

These are the areas the article discusses:

Management of Breeders and Eggs
This section highlights the importance of Breeder nutrition and management to ensure adequate nutrients in the egg to pass onto the chicks at hatch. For any unfamiliar with the terminology, in this context a poult is a Turkey Chick.

Quote: Poult quality and health status is greatly influenced by the nutrients and antibodies the poult receives from the egg yolk. The benefit the poult receives from the egg will be dependent on the hen´s nutritional and immune status. Therefore, the first crucial step in minimizing enteric challenges is proper management of the breeder bird. If not treated properly, bacterial infections in breeder birds can be the start of enteric issues in poults. Poults need to be free of Salmonella, Pseudomonas and Clostridium at hatch. A sound breeder program will focus on breeder nutrition, breeder management, breeder vaccination programs (including serological monitoring to check titres) and preventing disease challenges. End Quote

Discussion also highlights the importance of egg handling procedures and chick transport care, including temperature control, when chicks are moved from the hatchery to the rearing unit.

Barn Clean Out Programs
Successful intensive livestock operations operate batch in/batch out systems. For readers not familiar with this terminology, it means stock received into the rearing unit come as a single batch in sufficient numbers to be commercially viable. They are maintained in the rearing unit until they go for slaughter. Poultry are reared in barns and/or barns with access to outdoor runs. The latter system gain “free range” certification. The comments regarding sanitation and biosecurity between batches apply to both systems and are important procedures for ostrich producers to follow.

Over the years I have been involved in Ostrich I have visited many farms with systems that do not operate on batch in batch out. I have witnessed various systems in operation, with all involving continuous throughput of chicks in one way or another. With ostrich these systems started as a direct result of sales of a few breeders or chicks to new farmers, with volumes never achieving commercial slaughter numbers. All too often business models have been built on selling chicks to new farmers.

Another reason for these continuous flow systems being developed for ostrich is the enormous growth from baby chick to slaughter weight and the assumption that slaughter is 14 months (430 days). Our industry has already proven that birds can achieve the same slaughter weight in 50% of that time. Imagine what can be achieved when operating with batch in batch out systems – the birds never being moved and with strict biosecurity in operation.

Be Ready for Poult (Chick) Arrival
All the advice is assuming large batches of same age chicks – this could be as few as 50 but more often will be numbers in hundreds or thousands. The principles are the same, no matter what the numbers.

The quicker poults find feed and water, the faster their digestive tract will begin to function normally.
End Quote

Many times I have had farmers of large numbers of ostrich when measured by ostrich industry standards, not poultry industry standards, tell me that it is easy to apply tight management systems to small numbers but not possible when dealing in volume. My experience is that the reverse is true. The larger the operation the easier it is to establish tight biosecurity and management systems.

Putting out more than they will eat in a few hours may cause the underlying feed to mould, leading to crop mycosis.
End Quote

Visiting farms and witnessing baby chick feed bowls full is a common problem I have experienced. The farmers assume that because there is feed available the chicks will eat. Ostrich chicks are sensitive to the aroma of the feed – if it has been out too long, has lost its colour or aroma, they will hold back on eating. Holding back on eating leads to many problems.

Water Sanitation and Management
This section discusses water sanitation and the importance of observing controls if adding vitamins and/or medicaments to the water supply. As water consumption will vary between individual animals, we would recommend that any additional vitamins are better administered through the feed. To qualify that statement, ensuring adequate intake of water is essential to ensure adequate intake of feed.

Quote: Use water meters to monitor water consumption to ensure birds are always increasing their daily water intake. If water consumption drops or flat-lines, birds are not well and a producer can respond before the issues become a disaster. End Quote

Water sanitation and management as it applies to ostrich can only be developed once we have volume production on a commercial scale.

Service Technician Role
In this context the title Service Technician is the Manager of the production unit. The following quote highlights well just how important management is, including ensuring the feed is manufactured and fed as the nutritionist specified.

Quote: In enteric disease situations, service technicians are often asked, “Is something missing from the feed?” Yet, most often feeds are exactly as formulated by the nutritionist and the real questions is “What caused these birds to eat litter and not feed?” Inadequate daily bird care or poor management are frequently involved in such situation and should be ruled out before looking for less obvious causes. Poor management issues could include improper ventilation (too much or too little), inadequate temperature control, excessive litter moisture, high levels of ammonia, distasteful water (due to too much sanitizer or microbial growth), poor feed presentation or any number of other issues. End Quote:

Nutritionists Role
The opening statement on this section states:

Quote: While the nutritionist plays an important role in establishing proper gut health, there are two kinds of poultry nutritionists: those who formulate forgiving diets and those who formulate bare essential diets that are unforgiving. End Quote

This section goes onto to discuss the challenges related to formulating on a least cost basis as it relates to Turkeys – we would agree. The way to achieve best performance and commercial viability is to establish the best diet that the nutritionist has determined provides best performance by ensuring good gut health, and then providing that diet at the best price possible.

Quote: Not only is a proper nutritional program critical, but a strong quality control program is a must to assure that quality ingredients are received and high-quality feed produced. This is as important for macro-ingredients such as corn, soybean and fat sources as it is for micro-ingredients such as vitamins, amino acids and trace minerals. It is also crucial to ensure that the feed mill delivers durable pellets and crumbles with a minimum amount of fines to encourage feed consumption. Properly formulated feeds are worthless if birds do not eat the feed as a complete meal. End Quote

To that statement for ostrich we would add forage ingredients to the list of macro ingredients – but in every other respect support that statement totally.

This section concludes:

Quote: Finally, the use of antibiotics for bacterial challenges is becoming limited so it is important to explore alternative options such as competitive exclusion or enzymes to aid the digestion of feed components. We must use any advantage to offset disease challenges. End Quote

Consumer demand and political controls are increasingly enforcing management systems to move away from antibiotics as control mechanisms for gut infections. This can be achieved when management work in collaboration with nutritionist, feed manufacture and tight feed and farm management controls.

Veterinarian Role
The role of our veterinarians to support the industry is essential from many aspects. However, until ostrich crosses the divide from a minority, exotic, rare breed and non commercial specie to full commercial production the veterinary profession have limited data to enable them to provide the support services required. It is my experience that few vets to date have experienced our definition of a “healthy” ostrich.

These words from the article are also very applicable to Ostrich.

Quote: As the turkey continues to improve in growth rate and feed efficiency, it will be critical for everyone involved in bird management to stay in tune with how to rear this evolving bird. Even subtle changes in bird health - especially gut health - influence their livelihood. Production cost is still paramount with the company and producer but when improving costs leads us astray of sound production practices, the results may be more costly. When enteric issues get the lead, they always win the race and you, the company and producer are the losers. End Quote:

To date ostrich is failing to develop volume production; a major reason for this is failure to address these issues in the right manner.

Managing risk in feed prices directly

Newsletter No. 62 - Item 4

There are an increasing number of reports and articles written to advise producers on how to manage the effects of the increasing feed prices as they represent the highest single input cost. When prices are under pressure, it is always tempting to work with feed ingredients that do not have adequate nutrients to support optimum health and commercial levels of production. The top producers in mainstream livestock know that certain ingredients must be included in their diets, or they risk production dropping to uneconomic levels. These current conditions are putting increasing pressure on establishing the right balance.

One of the major problems with Ostrich production was the belief that ostrich can obtain energy from fibre and thus poor quality ingredients can be used. During a conference in 1998 the delegates were taken to a very large breeder farm. The farm was new and boasting to be the largest breeder farm in the country. The manager of the farm correctly stated that they see their breeders as production units and went onto tell us that their rations contained 50% straw. I do not know how many years the farm lasted, but it was not many. There are very few nutrients in straw, so the rations simply could not provide commercial levels of production and possible no production at all with 50% straw in a ration. With ostrich, because the daily intake of feed is low in proportion to their body weight, the ingredients used need to provide as many nutrients as possible within their class (e.g. forage, protein, grains) and those nutrients need to be available (digestible). The aim of commercial production units is to identify the ingredients that are essential to support commercial levels of production and then securing the supply and purchasing those ingredients at the best prices possible.

The following quote is from a document published this month (April 2008) for our British Pig producers entitled “Global Feed Commodities Market - Its Impact on the British Pig Industry and Risk Management Strategies to Mitigate This”. This quotation is discussing using forward buying as one mechanism for gaining better control over feed prices. This is the way larger producers manage their ingredient sourcing and provides an indication of the challenges facing Ostrich production while operations are small, fragmented and failing to work in collaboration. The right ingredients are essential for commercial production, but very expensive when purchased in low volume and on the open market.

Managing risk in feed prices directly
Buying forward cover

• This is a common practice among intensive livestock farmers, although it is not without its risks. To buy forward at a time when the value of the finished product is static or rising may well make good sense since it locks a major element of total costs at a known level which will leave a profit or at least limit any short term losses.
• Equally, if a short term contract has been taken, when it comes up for renewal at a time when cereal and protein prices have been rising while output values have not improved, there could be a sudden jump in costs against static output values resulting once again in reduced profit or a shift to trading losses. It is this last combination of circumstances in which the industry now finds itself at the beginning of 2008.

Using forward grain markets and Options
• Buyers of feed can buy an Option to buy wheat at a given price. If the market goes up, they exercise the option to buy at the lower price, thus effectively locking in to a maximum feed price. Should the market fall, they ‘tear up’ their Option contract, write off the cost of it, and buy at the lower price in the market.
• In the case of livestock feed, the business which buys the Option to buy feed ingredients could be either the pig farmer or his feed compounder. In the latter case the feed manufacturer will pass on the costs of the arrangement, no doubt including administration, to their customer, but at least both parties know that they can trade with each other for the duration of the arrangement without worrying about what the grain market is doing.

Managing risk through collaboration in the supply chain
• Fixed price contracts. These involve negotiating a price based on known feed costs and other costs in the chain which leave a modest margin for efficient operators and offer the opportunity for the more efficient to prosper further.
• Sale contracts linked to commodity prices. To reduce the risk of either or both parties to a fixed price contract being locked in to an unfavourable arrangement for any length of time, they may wish to consider a contractual arrangement with flexibility built in. An example of this would be linking finished pigs to wheat prices, for example the HGCA spot price on a given day, or the London International Financial Futures Exchange (Liffe) futures price for wheat..

Optimising Resources – Alfalfa

Newsletter No. 62 - Item 3

Any discussion on feed ingredients and optimising the use of resources has to include the important role of Alfalfa. At a time when there are concerns regarding world shortages of water, Table 1 shows comparison in water use efficiencies of several crops. The table illustrates how the complete alfalfa plant [100%] provides productive nutrients. Productive ostrich grower/finisher rations contain as much as 40% alfalfa, provided the alfalfa is of the right quality. Quality alfalfa provides a unique blend of nutrients in a highly digestible form, when fed as part of a correctly balanced ration.

Water Efficiency Comparisons

Table 1 Water Efficiency Comparisons [source:Alfalfa Wildlife and the Environment, UC Davis]

Figure 1 demonstrates the deep roots of Alfalfa by comparison to Corn. Alfalfa roots go as deep as 3-5 meters (9-16ft). This ensures that very little irrigation water is lost.

Alfalfa Root

Figure 1 - Comparative Root Depths [source: Alfalfa Wildlife and the Environment, UC Davis]

The following are a few other areas where the extensive roots of Alfalfa provides environmental benefits:

- Prevents Erosion
- Encourages water infiltration
- Biological activity within the soil
- Improved nutrient cycling
- Improvement in water use efficiency in some following crops

Further benefits of Alfalfa to soil health :

- Reduced Cultivation over grain crops
- Reduced Runoff
- Weed Suppression
- Low Pesticide Use
- Alfalfa 'Rhuzophere'
- Improved Soil tilth
- Provision of N to subsequent crops
- Reduction in energy needs in food production
- Important part of sustainable cropping systems
- Enriches Wildlife Habitat
- Incredible Insectary
- Help Solves Environment Problems

How Interactive are Nutritionists and Veterinarians?

Newsletter No. 60

The following blog, authored by Mojtaba Yegani, was published this month under the title: Poultry Nutritionists and Veterinarians – How interactive are they? on the World Poultry web site.

The poultry industry is a complex network of technical people with different educational backgrounds such as genetics, production management, nutrition, veterinary medicine and engineering. Nutritionists and veterinarians are usually considered as two dominant categories in commercial poultry production. It is a well-known fact that having a fully cooperative management team is of paramount importance in order to be able to achieve production goals and stay in this highly competitive business.

Efficient interactions of poultry nutritionists and veterinarians are essential to this accomplishment. We, as nutritionists or veterinarians, can discuss the following questions in this blog:

a. How interactive are you as a poultry nutritionist or veterinarian?
b. Blaming someone else could be a first reaction to a problem. Has this been your experience when a problem occurs in your farm?
c. Nutritionists and veterinarians can efficiently benefit from each other’s knowledge and practical experiences. Do you agree with this?

There are a number of responses and without exception all are in full agreement.

A few years ago I asked a senior ostrich vet if he believed there should be cross over between veterinary and nutritionist as the two disciplines are so interrelated. He agreed and went onto state that he had no knowledge of nutrition. We only have to look at the tables in the links below listing the clinical signs of deficiencies to understand just how these two disciplines interrelate to each other, no matter which specie – the principles are the same.

Functions, Deficiencies, Interrelationships & Toxicities of Minerals and Vitamins– Poultry including Ostrich Nutritional Deficiencies and Excesses - Pigs

Optimum Vitamin Nutrition™
Roche Vitamins, now owned by DSM, introduced the terminology Optimum Vitamin Nutrition™ (OVN). The company recognised that many of the National Research Council (NRC) nutritional recommendations are set dangerously low. The following is their explanation of OVN as it relates to production livestock. There are recommendations out for Ostrich, although not yet published by the NRC, and proving to also be set too low.

Quote: "Optimum Vitamin Nutrition" refers to providing all known vitamins in the diet at levels that permit optimum health and performance. The figure below provides a simplified visualization.

optimum nutrition

The y-axis, Average Animal Response, refers to any average productivity or health measure, such as growth rate, feed efficiency, immunity or reproductive performance, as it responds to vitamin allowances.

The x-axis, Vitamin Allowances, refers to the total level of vitamins in the diet, including feedstuffs and fortification:

  • Deficient marginal allowances (2) are below the requirements published by the National Research Council, putting the animals at risk of developing clinical deficiency signs and disorders.
  • Suboptimum marginal allowances (3) exceed the NRC requirements and thus prevent clinical signs, but they are inadequate to permit optimum health and productivity.
  • Optimum allowances (4) permit optimum animal health and productivity.

Note that there is not a single optimum vitamin allowance. Various influencing factors will affect both the animal's requirements and the ability of the diet to meet them. These factors include:

  • Stressors on the animal:
    - Disease
    - Confinement
    - Restricted feeding
    - Vitamin antagonists
    - Air quality
    - Temperature
  • Variations of vitamin levels in feedstuffs:
    - Bioavailability
    - Stability
    - Quality of feedstuffs

For instance, vitamin allowances that are optimum in a stress-free environment may become suboptimum as the heat stress of summer increases. Thus, Optimum Vitamin Nutrition remains a dynamic aspect of animal agriculture that must be regularly evaluated. END

Note that the current published recommendations for ostrich fall into Category 2 above, as we still see many clinical deficiency signs, even with this company.

The following is a quote from the first couple of paragraphs of chapter in The Poultry Site Hand Book. The whole article can be read by clicking this link.

Optimum vitamin nutrition of laying hens
The overall goal of the layer industry is to achieve the best performance, feed utilization and health of birds. All nutrients including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water are essential for these vital functions, but vitamins have an additional dimension. They are required in adequate levels to enable the animal to efficiently utilize all other nutrients in the feed. Therefore, optimum nutrition occurs only when the bird is offered the correct mix of macro- and micronutrients in the feed and is able to efficiently utilize those nutrients for its growth, health, reproduction and survival.

Vitamins are active substances, essential for life of man and animals. They belong to the micronutrients and are required for normal metabolism in animals. Vitamins are essential for optimum health as well as normal physiological functions such as growth, development, maintenance and reproduction. As most vitamins cannot be synthesized by poultry in sufficient amounts to meet physiological demands, they must be obtained from the diet. Vitamins are present in many feedstuffs in minute amounts and can be absorbed from the diet during the digestive process. If absent from the diet or improperly absorbed or utilized, vitamins are a cause of specific deficiency diseases or syndromes. End

As can be seen vitamins are essential to good health, but only of value when part of a correctly balanced diet, containing all the correct nutrients. We certainly agree with Mojtaba Yegani.

Forage Testing

Newsletter No. 59 -  Item 3 & 4

This section of the newsletter discussed the importance of testing the forage fed to production livestock to ensure the nutritional profile of the batch is accurate to enable the nutritionist to balance the rations accurately.

Forage Testing
Forage testing is normal practice in production livestock farming.   A forage test supplies essential information about the nutritive value of the forage portion of the rataion.  It can be fed as hay, haylage or silage. Hay is the optimum medium for ostrich.  It is essential to ensure the rest of the feed provide balanced rations capable of supporting the production group.  Dairy genetics have improved dramatically over the years and feeding the forage and other ingredients as a complete feed is becoming the norm, to enable accurate intake of sufficient nutrients to support high levels of production without the metabolic problems long associated with milk production.  Today, dairy cattle fed in this manner can be seen in grass paddocks for exercise, but they do not eat the grass as they now receive their total nutrient requirements in the feed bunker.

Some useful articles on forage testing:

Basics of Forage Testing
Collecting Forage Samples

Quality alfalfa amounts for as much as 40% of ostrich diets, so accuracy in forage analysis is essential.

Alfalfa suitable for most climates
Alfalfa/Lucerne is an important component in an ostrich ration.  Working with any other forage ingredient is always a compromise that will cost production and limit the ability to achieve the full potential of the best Ostrich genetics.  We are often told that it is not possible to grow Alfalfa in this country or that so, when a member informed us they had been told that the bug situation made it too expensive to produce alfalfa in their country, I emailed a scientist from their region who had done some trials.  The response received was very positive:

Quote:  We have studied some alfalfa cultivar under laboratory conditions and some of them exhibited high levels of resistance. End quote

He gave me an introduction to a scientist whom he believed to be more up to date with information in the region.   The response was also positive – it illustrated the management factors required, but concluded that the production of Alfalfa can be commercially viable in the region.   The comments relating to the diversity of Alfalfa as a crop adaptable to extremes of climatic conditions are of significant importance.  As with all agricultural crops and livestock – it requires high standards of management to achieve optimum production with commercially viable returns.

Quote:  Being a plant of temperate climate, alfalfa, due to its wide genetic variability, is able to adapt to differing climates and altitudes from sea level to high valleys, so that it can be cultivated in almost any part of the world. 

It has been found that regarding ambient temperature, the yellow-flowered alfalfa (Medicago falcata), for example, survived temperatures as low as minus 28C in Alaska, whereas some common varieties (Medicago sativa) were grown in Death Valley in California, USA, with temperatures up to 54C.  And, among the common varieties (M. sativa), the variety “Crioula” is the best adapted to the State of São Paulo, which is in the south east region of Brazil.

However, the most significant factor influencing the production of alfalfa in any part of the world is soil fertility, which can actually rule it out as a demanding economic crop.  The soil must have high fertility, with pH between 6.0 and 6.5. I should point out that soils in Brazil are of low to medium fertility, with pH between 4.0 and 5.0.  This must be adjusted, that is to say the soil fertility must be improved for the production of forage alfalfa by the application of appropriate elements (dolomitic lime).  As well as this, soils must be deep, of average texture (sandy-clay), be free of compaction, have good permeability, with any aquifer being deeper than 2m., and irrigation must be available.  Regarding irrigation, although it is a plant which is fairly resistant to drought, high production of forage will only be obtained with supplementary water during periods of drought stress.

Therefore, by taking account of and correcting certain requirements, as mentioned above, the commercial cultivation of alfalfa is reasonably viable in the State of São Paulo, in the south east region of Brazil. End quote

The answer therefore is that it is possible to grow alfalfa in any region or climate in the world providing the soil and management conditions are correct and in areas of high humidity there will be an additional problem of drying to overcome. To achieve commercial production of alfalfa will require ostrich producers working in collaboration with arable producers and the local scientific community to achieve commercial production of alfalfa.

Newly Hatched Chicks and Early access to Feed

Newsletter No. 50 Item 4

A quote from the article published here:

Quote:  The small intestine of the newly-hatched chick is immature and undergoes significant morphological, biochemical, and molecular changes during the 2 week post-hatch.

The timing and form of nutrients supplied post-hatch is critical for development of intestines. It has been shown that early access to feed accelerates the rate of yolk utilization and enhances growth of the intestinal tract.

Usual hatchery practices result in a 24-72 hr transition between hatching and placing of chicks on the farm. The delayed access to feed can lead to a depression in intestinal function, which may negatively affect subsequent performance of birds.

Studies have also shown that providing developing embryo with exogenous nutrients (in ovo feeding) may enhance intestinal tract development and lead to higher body weight in ovo fed chicks. End quote

The issues raised in this discussion are:

  • The importance of chick access to feed as soon as possible after hatch
  • The reduced performance of chicks as a direct result of the delay when provision of feed is delayed due to the time taken from hatching to transfer to rearing farm.
  • Studies proving that improved breeder feed to enhance embryo development in the egg may lead to higher body weight in chicks at hatch.

These issues are all very relevant for Ostrich production and confirm again the critical importance of adequate breeder nutrition.