Mon. Sep 21st, 2020

Supporting Farmers

How to produce eggs during chilly weather

6 min read

Joe Macharia feeds some of his 300 layers in a farm in Salama, in Elburgon, Nakuru County.

Joe Macharia feeds some of his 300 layers in a farm in Salama, in Elburgon, Nakuru County. Energy requirement for maintenance in poultry takes a significant proportion of the feeds consumed. PHOTO | JOHN NJOROGE | NMG

In Summary

  • A common misconception is that the main reason for feeding an animal is to stimulate growth and production of eggs, meat or milk.
  • We feed first to maintain the chicken and in animal nutrition, maintenance is the first law of nature.
  • The maintenance energy requirement in poultry is so large that it takes up a major proportion of feeds consumed.
  • As such, if a hen starts laying eggs before it meets its energy needs for growth and production, it will be stunted.
By SUBIRI OBWOGO
As a rule, I never ascribe one cause to a problem until I’ve ruled out other possible reasons but in this instance, I upended that tenet.
Readers will recall my 12 step-by-step guide to the drop in egg production that I shared in Seeds of Gold of March 10.
In step five, I discussed the quality of feeds, which is what I want to expound on.
Winstone from Kitengela and Joseph Mwangi from Tharaka-Nithi County called the other day to complain about a caption to my article which read, “Simon Githaiga feeds his 400 layers in Elburgon. He collects 150 trays of eggs per day.”
They doubted how a hen can lay 10 eggs in one day (the statement became a butt of jokes on Facebook).
I had to assure them that it was an oversight which would be corrected.
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Later, I came across a Facebook post by Benjamin Kamau who sought guidance for the reason behind a sudden drop in egg production in his flock which he attributed to the cold weather.
“What can I do,” he asked.
I read all 52 responses but couldn’t agree with those suggesting to add supplements such as kinghumivet, ginger garlic extract, alamycin and amino-vitals (I realised that some folks take advantage to market their products).
Instead, I focused on a concept referred to as “maintenance” which is normally the first principle I discuss with farmers who attend my classes on feed formulation.
“We feed first to maintain the chicken and in animal nutrition, maintenance is the first law of nature,” I said.
I then reverted to basic biology. “Chickens, just like humans, require a balanced diet comprising carbohydrates, proteins, water and micro-nutrients for optimum growth.”
I explained that carbs provide energy and heat while proteins are necessary for growth and tissue synthesis.
“A common misconception is that the main reason for feeding an animal is to stimulate growth and production of eggs, meat or milk,” I said.
Animals require energy for maintenance, growth and production. In addition to water, proteins and micro-nutrients, animals and birds need a substantial supply of energy from carbs not just for growth and egg production, but to maintain their bodies at rest.
“The maintenance energy requirement in poultry is so large that it takes up a major proportion of feeds consumed,” I said.
FEED NEEDED FOR MAINTENANCE
“When we think of maintenance energy, we normally exclude energy required for production of milk, eggs, wool, foetal growth or deposition of protein.”
According to one study, even when a hen is in heavy production, a significant proportion — 70 to 80 per cent of its food — is still needed for body maintenance.
For hens laying at a rate of 72 per cent, approximately 71 per cent of the food consumed was used for body maintenance; 27 per cent for egg production and two for the increase in body weight.
Another thing is that for young chicks, the proportion of feed needed for maintenance is lowest in early life and increases as they grow older.
Here’s the paradox; energy requirement for maintenance in poultry takes a significant proportion of the feeds consumed.
As such, if a hen starts laying eggs before it meets its energy needs for growth and production, it will be stunted.
In fact, low energy diet results in slow growth, poor feathering and reduces efficiency of feed utilisation in chicks, resulting in poor weight gain and low egg production.
Cold weather increases energy needs and tips balance towards negative. As a matter of fact, sometimes the energy requirement, rather than other nutrients, is the limiting factor for growth and reproduction in animals. This explains the favourable results of “high energy rations”.
Simply, maintenance is the energy (capacity to do work) needed to sustain the animal’s body at rest without losing or adding weight.
This energy is required to generate heat and maintain the body temperature. Energy is also needed for voluntary (scratching, walking and flying) and involuntary (body processes like digestion) actions.
A cheap way to increase the energy content of feeds is by adding vegetable oil (extracted from soya beans, cotton seed or sunflower) to the ration (fats contain double the amount of energy per gram compared to carbs).
A word of caution: Vegetable oil can make the feeds wet and increase spoilage. As such, it should not exceed eight per cent of the ration. Add an antioxidant to the mixture to reduce spoilage.
The next time a drop in egg production in your flock coincides with cold weather, before you think of buying supplements or deworming, simply increase the energy content of the ration.

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