Poultry Feed Formulation: The Basics You Need to Know

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If you are new to owning chickens, turkeys, or other poultry, there are probably plenty of words you see being thrown around that you aren’t familiar with. And, poultry feed formulation is likely one of those terms.

Rather than getting frustrated with trying to figure out what all the jargon means, let’s take a few minutes to go over what “poultry feed formulation” means and how it can help you raise better birds.Poultry Feed Formulation: The Basics You Need to Know

What Is Poultry Feed Formulation?

The term “poultry feed formulation” is one you will run into very often online and in publications about farming poultry. Poultry feed is, obviously, feed for your chickens and turkeys. But, when you see poultry feed formulation being talked about, this is referring to the process through which the ingredients in the feed come together in order to form a complete diet.

When considering poultry feed formulation, you are helping to ensure that the diet your poultry are eating meets all of the nutritional requirements to keep them alive and well – and to ensure the highest possible quality of the poultry products you make.

Feeding Poultry Is Not Cheap

If you already own poultry, you probably were surprised by just how costly keeping them is. In fact, the cost of feeding poultry accounts for between 65% and 75% of the total costs of live poultry production worldwide.

Poultry Eating Their Feed

With that in mind, consider the cost and importance of poultry feed formulation – if a mistake is made in the process, it can lead to both monetary losses and the loss of members of your flock (resulting in additional monetary losses).

Factors to Consider When Formulating Poultry Feed

Poultry feed formulation must take many aspects into account. You need to clearly understand these factors in order to make the right decision for your flock:

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  • What are the nutritional requirements of your particular class (layers, breeders, broilers, etc.) and specific breed of poultry?
  • What ingredients will you have in your feed?
  • What is the ingredients’ nutrient composition and how easy is it to process by the birds?
  • How much do the ingredients cost?
  • How readily available are the ingredients?

If you’re a small-scale farmer, formulating your own poultry feed may not be the most economical option. But for larger-scale farmers, many of whom typically have their own feed-making mills and in-house nutritionists, poultry feed formulation is a critical aspect in running a sustainable and profitable business.

That doesn’t mean that if you are a small-scale farmer you don’t need to understand poultry feed formulation.

In fact, to ensure that each chicken’s requirements are optimally met, the formulations you make need to be fairly accurate. Correcting mistakes or inaccuracies after the feed has been manufactured is extremely costly. And, for small-scale farmers, so is sourcing new feed after initially getting the wrong one.

Poultry feed formulation seriously is a science, and it requires empirical measurements and exact proportions of each ingredient. At the same time, it’s also an art. The person formulating the food has to have an in-depth knowledge about the various ingredients that can be used, and an understanding of the poultry themselves and their feeding requirements.

The animal nutritionist in charge of the process will need to know the impact of using various proportions of the ingredients of the poultry feeds on the well-being of the birds. How will these ingredients impact the pellet quality, and how the poultry diet responds to feed additives as well as what effect does it have on the animal’s gut health.

Two things that one needs to be especially careful about when putting together a formulation are anti-nutritional factors and toxins.

Anti-nutritional factors affect the digestivity of the feeds and potentially deny the birds essential nutrients. One example of an anti-nutritional factor is anti-trypsin that is found in soybean meal. Luckily, various ways of controlling or even mitigating the negative impact of anti-nutritional factors on poultry feeds exist.

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As for toxins, quite obviously, when present in a large enough amount, they can be detrimental to the health of your poultry flock. As such, it is important to avoid them completely or limit their presence to the minimum amount possible.

What Does A Formulation Include?

If you choose to begin putting together a poultry feed formulation yourself, it needs to include many different pieces of information in order to be viable.

First and foremost, you need to know the ingredients that will be used and the exact amount of each. You’ll also need to include information about the composition or concentration of each vital nutrient within your flock’s diet.

By looking at the nutritional information of a poultry feed formulation, you’re able to tell whether it is adequate for the class of poultry that you’re planning to feed. Energy value, protein content, vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional values are all needed to properly evaluate a formulation for your flock.

Poultry Feed Formulation Ingredients

In addition to the above, your poultry feed formulation also needs to include comprehensive information about the concentration of digestible amino acids and the mineral value found within the feed. Out of all the amino acids that may be found with your poultry feed formulation, the most common is the limiting amino acid known as methionine. However, there are ten other essential amino acids that are commonly found in poultry feed formulations.

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Here’s a recap of what a poultry feed formulation needs to detail:

  • All of the ingredients that will be used in your formulation
  • The nutritional content of each ingredient
  • The overall nutritional content of your mix

Formulations need to be proportional, meaning you could make 10 lbs of the mix or 100 lbs of the mix and taking a serving out of either finished batch would have precisely the name nutritional content.

That’s essential to ensuring your chickens are getting the nutrition they need.

For easy reference, most formulations are written based on the pound(s) needed for each ingredient to make a 100-pound batch. See the example formulation below.

Sample Formulation: A Winter Mix for Egg-Laying Hens

Curious to see what a finished formulation actually looks like?

Here’s an example of a winter mix for egg-laying hens.

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Notice that column A details the name of each ingredient, while column B details the weight used (in pounds). Column C shows the amount of proteins contained in each ingredient. Finally, Column D shows the amount of that ingredient per 25-pounds. Row 18 shows the totals.

Sample Poultry Feed Formulation

How Does One Go About Formulating a Poultry Feed?

Now that you know what a finished poultry feed formulation looks like, let’s take a look at the actual process of formulating a poultry feed.

Most farmers will formulate a food on a “least cost” basis, which means that your formulation process will consider the nutritional needs of your flock while also taking into account the raw materials available and their cost. In other words, the least cost formulation method will find a way to formulate a feed that fits your flock’s needs at the lowest price point possible.

To follow this formulation method, you need to have a sound understanding of your flock’s class of poultry. You also need to know the nutritional content of the raw materials you are considering, along with the prices of each ingredient.

A mathematical formula will then be used to derive the amount of ingredients that will be used as part of your poultry feed formulation. If you only need to use a few ingredients, this formula is typically rather simple. However, it can get more complex when you begin adding multiple ingredients to the formulation.

Scratching your head?

Poultry feed formulations require precision and a great deal of research (and general background knowledge). If you find yourself confused by the process, you’re not alone. That’s why there are people who devote their entire careers to formulating poultry feeds.

It’s a difficult (and very crucial) process that requires accuracy at every level.

Now, if you aren’t a large-scale farmer, you probably can’t justify hiring your own nutritionist for your flock. But, you can take advantage of some of the tools out there for smaller-scale farmers.

Feed Formulation Packages are marketed for this exact purpose.

Using Feed Formulation Packages

If it’s all starting to sound a little too complex and time-consuming, don’t fret.

Fortunately, there are numerous feed formulation packages that you can buy for very affordable prices and use as part of your poultry feed formulation. A feed formulation package, like that offered by Brill, is basically a piece of software that will help you with the chemical analysis and financials of a poultry feed formulation that you are considering.

Feed Formulation Package Software

Feed mills will generally apply various quality control measures before producing large amounts of feed and distributing it to the market. A poultry feed formulation may be tested in the lab or used in feeding trials to ensure that it’s an adequate diet for the type of chickens it will be used for.

To ensure that your poultry feed formulation is both accurate and cost-effective, you should measure the chemical composition of each ingredient. A feed formulation package will help give you all the data in an easy-to-digest form so that you can make the right decisions for your flock.

Don’t Forget to Consider Seasonal Variations

Now, using a feed formulation package doesn’t make it okay to “just guess” about what your flock needs.

You still need to put in the up-front research to learn more about your chicken variety’s nutritional requirements to be certain your feed will meet them. You should also keep in mind that your flock’s nutritional needs are likely to differ as the weather changes. In the colder winter months, they will likely need more protein than in the hot summer months.

Similarly, the cost of various ingredients you might want to use will likely differ by seasons.

As such, once you have found the information you need about what your chickens require in their feed, the next step is finding cost-effective ingredients for each season that you can put into your formulation.

This may mean making two, three, or even four different mixes to keep up with your flock’s needs throughout the year, but that’s when your feed formulation software will come in handy.

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1 comment

Walter Mandava

Very informative can l stock feed formulation for broilers

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