For the successful implementation of this broiler retardation nutritional program, it is necessary to ensure a continuous supply of diluted nutrition during the restriction period.
In broiler production, efficiency and time to market are key. Every link in the production chain is aligned with it. However, due to disruptions in the chain, it is sometimes necessary to delay deliveries from the farm to the processor. Broiler growth may need to be slowed to maintain ideal slaughter parameters.
According to the National Chicken Council, the United States poultry industry processed more than 9.22 billion broilers in 2020. To achieve this, the poultry industry relies on a vertically integrated production system that ensures a seamless flow of poultry products from the breeder farm through the hatchery. , to the broiler farm and further to the processing plant. The logistics for each step are closely coordinated so that when a product is moved from one link in the supply chain, the next link is ready to receive it. This not only protects the welfare of each bird, but also improves the efficiency of the system, which operates on razor-thin margins.
Problems arise when the supply chain is disrupted. Quick and decisive action by a competent team will deal with supply chain disruptions, but the solution will often require changes in planning. So how do you respond to disruptions that delay flocks leaving the farm and entering the processing plant?
Just in time
Modern commercial broilers grow rapidly, averaging 60 grams (2.1 ounces) per day during the production period with maximum growth 3 weeks after placement. For this reason, the entire broiler production process is considered a “just in time” process, with the harvest and delivery of broilers to processing plants precisely planned to maximize efficiency.
However, we occasionally receive requests for nutritional and feed interventions to slow broiler growth. Over the past 2 years, the supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have created conditions that have made it necessary to manage broiler body weight. Other reasons for supply chain disruptions stem from labor shortages (for harvesting or processing), sudden changes in demand (pandemics, unexpected trade restrictions or disease), or natural disasters (ice storms, floods, fires, or power outages).
The degree or magnitude of growth retardation in broilers will be governed by the severity of the disturbance that prevents the birds from moving from the farm to the processing plant. The steps needed to slow broiler growth by 1 or 2 days are vastly different compared to those that need to slow growth by up to 6 or even 10 days.
The primary objective in applying a growth intervention strategy is to slow growth and maintain carcass quality without adversely affecting bird health and increasing mortality. However, these interventions can have an impact on the yield of carcass and breast meat. Successful stunting of broilers depends on the following general nutritional recommendations:
Reduce percent digestible lysine (%dLys) and dietary energy.
Formulate all other essential amino acids in the ideal ratio to %dLys.
Ensure that amino acid levels decrease proportionally when %dLys is decreased.
Do not use any minimum protein percentage limits in your feed formulation software.
Specific dietary recommendations can be provided to slow broiler growth and achieve the desired market weight. Management must always meet the basic needs of the flock while adapting the program to fully benefit from the breed’s potential. Some guidelines may need to be adapted locally based on your own experience or infrastructure to enable you to meet any national animal welfare or care requirements. Cobb’s local technical services teams and global technical support teams can help you manage a flock that is experiencing processing delays.
Normally, the logistics for each step in poultry production are closely coordinated so that when a product is moved from one link in the supply chain, the next link is ready to receive it. Photo: Bert Jansen
Normally, the logistics for each step in poultry production are closely coordinated so that when a product is moved from one link in the supply chain, the next link is ready to receive it.
Slowing down the growth of broilers by 2-3 days
Small broilers (weight at processing < 1.75 kg, 28-30 days growth): Successful intervention should start about 7-8 days before normal market age. If 3 diets are used in a grow-out program, then we recommend reducing the energy content of the last feed by 200-250 kcal/kg (90-115 kcal/lb) and the %dLys content by about 0.05% units. For example, reducing 1.15% dLys to 1.10% dLys.
Start feeding this modified diet 7-8 days before the original market age. Limit feeding time after 3 weeks of age by limiting feeding to 2-3 hours per day. Apply the feeding restriction at the same time every day. Reducing the light intensity in the broiler house (if possible) should increase the effectiveness of the intervention. Feeding a pelleted diet with a high percentage of fines will also slow feed consumption.
Medium and large broilers (processing weight > 1.75 kg): The rearing procedure for medium and large broilers is similar to that of small broilers with interventions starting 7-8 days before normal market age. First, the lower energy content of the feed by 150-200 kcal/kg (compared to normal feed) during this period. Reduce %dLys by 0.07% units (slightly more than the small broiler program). You may also consider feeding mash or pelleted food with a high percentage of fines to slow down the feeding rate.
If feed restriction is necessary, start with a short 2-hour restriction at a younger age (12-14 days of age). This will allow the young birds to adapt to the daily short-term restriction. Delaying feeding restrictions until older can lead to intense competition for the feeder, resulting in skin scratches and bruises. Another option is to increase the hours of darkness to the legal maximum. If feed restriction is planned, a cocci vaccination program is preferable to a coccidiostat program for cocci control.
Slowing down the growth of broilers by 4-6 days
Small broilers (processing weight <1.75 kg, 28-30 days growth): This would be difficult to achieve. Intervention should begin at approximately 12 days of age. No changes to the initial feeding are recommended, but a diluted second feeding should be introduced at 12 or 13 days of age. Feed calories and %dLys in the second and third feeds should be reduced by approximately 200-250 Kcal/kg along with a %dLys reduction of approximately 0.05% units compared to normal feeds. If additional precautions are needed, follow the recommendations in the previous section for small broilers regarding feed restriction, light restriction and pellet quality.
Medium and large broilers (weight at processing > 1.75 kg): This procedure is as a recommendation for small broilers with interventions starting at 12-13 days of age. The second, third and fourth feeds (if necessary) must all be reformulated with 200 kcal/kg less energy than normal feeds and a %dLys reduction of approximately 0.07% units. Providing pelleted feed with a high percentage of fines or even mash will also slow down consumption. A slight restriction of feeding can be used if necessary, but should be started at 12-13 days of age. Allowing broilers time to adjust to a short 2-3 hour period of feed restriction will minimize scratching caused by pushing at the feeder.
The primary objective in applying a growth intervention strategy is to slow growth and maintain carcass quality without adversely affecting bird health and increasing mortality.
Slowing down the growth of broilers by 7-10 days
Small broilers (processing weight <1.75 kg, 28-30 day growth): This deceleration may not be possible in the small broiler program.
Medium and large broilers (weight at processing > 1.75 kg): This is a significant intervention that may include feed restriction and feeding a different starter feed. Broiler chickens should be started on a starter feed similar to that used for replacement chickens (18% protein, 0.95% %dLys, 2740 Kcal/kg).
Feed the starter to chicks up to 21 days of age and begin feed restriction around 14 days of age by providing approximately 80% of the daily ad libitum feed intake listed in the Cobb Technical Supplement.
If accurate measurement of feed is not possible, consider other methods of limiting feed intake, including increasing the dark period, raising feeders, or other methods of limiting access to feed. The goal is to start restricting feeding at a young age. This will allow the flock time to acclimatize to the change.
Around day 21 of age, start feeding breeder chicks (as with replacement chicks). If possible, restricted feeding should be continued by limiting the amount of feed to about 60% of the daily feed intake given in the Cobb Technical Supplement. Allow the feeding of granulated food with a high percentage of fine particles or, even better, switch to a slurry after 21 days of age. The starter and grower feeds suggested here contain 15-25% bulk or “filler” ingredients such as wheat groats, rice mill feed and soybean hulls. It is important to note that rapidly increasing the supply of dietary ingredients could cause a problem with feed storage space. It is necessary to plan and coordinate the logistics of the filler ingredient (procurement of raw materials and storage in the feed factory).
For the successful implementation of this broiler retardation program, it is necessary to ensure a continuous supply of diluted feed during the restriction period. Another option to consider, if possible, is to replace the complete feed with 30-40% whole wheat or cracked maize (maize) at the farm level. This can also be used to slow growth. If you are substituting whole wheat or crushed corn, care should be taken to ensure that at least 50-60% of the supplied feed contains vitamin premix and mineral premix. Including whole wheat or cracked corn above 40% can lead to dietary deficiencies.
As soon as possible
A vertically integrated poultry industry makes it easier to manage all aspects of the production process, not only to control production costs, but also to make more efficient use of space, buy in bulk and maintain better product quality control. Having all manufacturing segments under one umbrella also allows for quick adjustments throughout the supply chain if problems arise.
Fortunately, fast-growing broilers can be slowed down to market weight by adjusting diet composition, feed form, and introducing minor restrictions. The key is to recognize the supply chain disruption and recalibrate the processing date so that there is time to make the appropriate slowdown adjustments to meet the new processing date.