Broiler feeding is affected by both dietary as well as management practices, according to Suttisak Boonyoung, Nutritionist at Cobb Asia Pacific.
Dr Boonyoung explained that dietary factors which need to be considered include the physical form of the feed, anti-nutrient factors, water supply, and nutrients gastrointestinal distention.
Research shows that broilers have limited taste buds and thus it is not flavor but its physical form that matters most to the birds. He mentioned that color, size, hardness, and shape are key features that make feed attractive to broilers.
For example, broilers eat more when particle size of the feed is bigger rather than smaller. Thus, the preference is for pelleted feed.
Apart from that, the amount of water intake can impact feeding behavior. A 2:1 ration between water and feed must be maintained for efficient eating.
Birds are also limited by their gut capacity when it comes to eating. Larger birds can consume more, and they would do so based on their energy requirements. Their energy requirements are influenced by management factors such as temperature, noise, light, and density.
“This is why heat stress can cause birds to eat less whilst in colder weather birds eat more to generate heat for warmth. Better lighting on the other hand increases feed intake and noise can distract birds from eating,” said Dr Boonyoung.
When using alternative feed ingredients, Dr Boonyoung warned that anti-nutritional factors can play a role in reducing digestibility of the feed and decrease feed intake.
The five common alternatives used – canola, DDGS, barley, wheat, and sorghum, each has anti-nutritional elements in them that need to be removed through enzyme action, to be more efficient. For example, wheat which can be incorporated up to 12-30% in formulas, comes with xylan that can impact digestibility.
Further, these alternatives can also impact pellet quality, given how they bind and react during the feed milling process.
Thus, Dr Boonyoung recommended that feedmillers look at the extent to which these alternatives can be optimized in feed formulas prior to incorporating them into the diet.
“The use of feed additives and enzymes can also further enhance gut integrity and reduce the adverse effects of the alternatives and its byproducts,” he said.