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Ruminant Nutrition – Back to the Basics

Nutrient requirements of a ruminant will vary over the course of its lifetime, but regardless of producer goals, stage of production, or management, ruminants will always require these key nutrients:

  • Protein
  • Energy
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins & minerals

Protein

Protein is a chain of nitrogenous compounds called amino acids. Protein supplementation helps in a number of processes including muscle deposition, frame and organ development, and increased fiber digestion.

Energy

Energy comes in many forms, but the most commonly thought of is starch, as that found in corn. Energy is important in fat deposition and is deposited differently when fed at different points in life. For example, high energy diets fed from weaning through the growing period lead to more intramuscular fat development. More back fat accumulation occurs when high energy diets are fed later in life, through the finishing period.

Fiber

Fiber is a structural molecule made up of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, which are difficult to digest. When ruminants “chew their cud” they are chewing already partially digested feed to decrease particle size. This allows for more surface area, so the ruminal “bugs” are able to digest it more effectively.

One of the important aspects of fiber in the ruminant diet is the roughage or “scratch factor” it provides. Fiber sources, such as hay, will scratch the rumen wall, which increases the surface area and growth of papillae along the rumen wall. The larger papillae are in number and size, the greater surface area there is to absorb nutrients.

Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are vital for animal health, development, and reproduction. While found in all feed sources, requirements of essential vitamins and minerals are not usually met through the basal diet, and need to be provided through loose range mineral, mineral tubs, or through a supplement.

Supplements & Additives

Additives such as mold inhibitors and binders can be applied to feed sources to help with feed quality through delivery and storage. Additional feed additives can be beneficial to animals, such as vitamins and minerals, medications, and natural supplements to increase efficiency and can be provided through feed, water, or blocks.

Nutritional Balance

It is vital that all nutrients are balanced with one another, but a key player in growth and development is the balance between protein and energy. How much protein vs. energy the animal will need depends on a number of factors but is necessary for maximum growth and reaching full genetic potential. Think about it in terms of filling a barrel with water. All of the protein “boards” are one height, but the energy “boards” are cut short. It does not matter how much water you try to put into the barrel, the energy “boards” are preventing maximal water fill. In this example, water signifies potential growth and production limited by an imbalance in nutrients.

How can AgriGro® help you achieve your goals?

NutriZyme® is an all-natural water and feed additive that enhances healthy gut microbes, therefore increasing digestion and efficiency. A healthy gut environment helps you get more out of the feed you provide and enhances the ability to reach proper balance among nutrients. The combination of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and protein found in NutriZyme® improves overall health and vigor, weaning weights, fertility, and intake in cattle.

To learn more about AgriGro®’s Livestock product line click here.




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Keep Layer Production High In The Summer Heat

Dealing with hot summer temperatures is inevitable for your layer operation, and being unprepared to handle it could result in poor layer production and increased mortality. So, what can you do to manage heat stress properly?

Understanding a few simple details is a great place to start. Since birds don’t have sweat glands and have complete feather coverage on their bodies their most comfortable climate is between  64ºF and 75ºF.  When the temperature rises above 75ºF, they fail to keep their average internal body temperature around 106ºF. When their body temperature starts to increase, you will see panting, prostration, a drop in feed consumption, and even death.

There are four main areas you can focus on to make sure your birds are living in the most comfortable conditions. These areas are:

  • Water
  • Feed
  • Housing
  • Stress Management

Let’s take a look at some practical management details that will keep your production high during the summer heat.

Water Management

You should provide three to four times the average daily amount of water during hot weather as compared to cold weather to ensure they always have cool, fresh water available. To bring down their body temperature chickens pant, which can quickly lead to dehydration. The water should be supplemented with 0.2% salt and electrolytes to help maintain the birds’ electrolyte balance and stimulate water consumption. Conduct flush-outs throughout the day to slow down any heating of standing water.

Feed Management

A layer hens’ feed intake drops typically during the hot summer months, so feed them with supplemented diets to help keep egg production high. In terms of fat calories, layers prefer high energy and low protein diets with balanced amino acids. Fat calories should be the key when supplementing feed for energy.


Keep in mind the following:

  • Replace 10-15% of feed energy usually supplied by carbohydrates and proteins with 1-2% vegetable oil/fats.
  • Increase the calcium intake and replace salt in the diet to help maintain eggshell quality.
  • Supplement feed intake with natural additives such Nutri-Zyme.  This blend of essential vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and amino acids, can positively affect digestive function in the gut and can help alleviate stress caused by heat.
  • Early morning and midday feeding times work best and it helps to dim the lights while feeding to reduce heat load and physical activity. The birds will have a tendency to wet the feed with their saliva which can lead to caking and possible mold in the feeder creating more production losses. Utilizing Nutri-Zyme works well to decrease mold and caking in the feed by promoting the diverse microbial population which works to aerate the feed.

Housing Management

Housing design is obviously important but details can be overlooked.  Ensuring the long axis of the poultry house is in an East-West direction, with a good roof overhang reduces the amount of direct sun and rain entering the house. Painting the shed roof with a reflective covering such as lime whitewash can reduce the house temperature by up to 35ºF.

Provide ridge vents at roof level to allow hot air to exit so that fresh air may enter the house through side openings.  Use side curtains to protect birds from direct hot wind currents and use gunny bags. Those bags facing any oncoming winds can be kept wet, so birds feel a cool breeze, which can reduce the temperature up to 35ºF.

Attach sprinklers onto the roof on the outside of the house to bring down the house’s temperature when you turn them on during hot weather. Attach foggers at bird level inside the poultry shed to reduce the temperature. Be mindful of your fogger use. If not properly maintained, you will run into wet litter problems which will create another set of issues affecting the health of the bird.  Birds grown in a high moisture environment do not perform to their highest potential.  This can lead to negative welfare issues such as:

  • Footpad dermatitis
  • Condemnations
  • Scabby areas
  • Breast blisters
  • Bruising

If you tend to run into damp litter problems, check out this article discussing IndigoLTs success in fighting wet litter issues. Utilizing IndigoLT in conjunction with Nutri-Zyme can create added benefits such as:

  •  Lower ammonia levels
  •  Reduced pathogens and disease
  •  Decreased insect pressure
  •  Dryer litter
  •  Less cake
  •  Higher nutrient value
  •  Improved overall bird health

Stress Management

Consider the additional stress that is placed on the birds when applying medicines and vaccines. Creating any bird movement or stress should be made during the cooler part of the day. When administering medicines, there should be plenty of cool, fresh water available, and quality fortified feed. Anticoccidial drugs should be used with caution and selectively because they can aggravate heat stress during hotter weather and can counteract the desired results .

Don’t forget to monitor the temperature.  It can be done conveniently by hanging a minimum/maximum thermometer inside the poultry house to check temperature variations during the day.

In summary, when planning your summer management practices, be sure all aspects of production are considered.  In truth, birds are not unlike us when it comes to the summer heat.  They want continued fresh liquids, they want a cool environment with a breeze circulating and a healthy meal with as little movement in  the heat of the day as possible.  Keeping all of these important areas in mind can keep your birds performing at high levels throughout the summer months!


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