Medium 9781786392985

Nutrition and Feeding of Organic Poultry, 2nd Edition

By: Blair, R.
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Organic poultry production has increased significantly in recent years to keep up with increasing consumer demand for organic eggs and meat. There are many guidelines and restrictions on what should go into the feed of organically-farmed poultry, from which difficulties arise when trying to ensure a well-balanced nutritious diet without the use of any unapproved supplements. This, the second edition of Robert Blair's classic and bestselling book on the nutrition and feeding of organic poultry, presents advice for organic producers, and the agencies and organizations serving them. Completely updated and revised to address how to formulate organic diets in situations where there is a declining supply of organic feed, this new edition also includes up-to-date information on the nutritional requirements of poultry and feed-related disease incidence in organic flocks. Also including the feasibility of utilizing novel feed, such as insect meal, and their acceptability by consumers of organic meat products, this book forms a comprehensive reference for students, organic farmers, veterinarians and researchers.

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1 Introduction and Background

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1

Introduction and Background

In recent years there has been a rapid increase in organic livestock production in many countries. This development is a response to an increased consumer demand for food that is perceived to be fresh, wholesome and flavoursome, free of hormones, antibiotics and harmful chemicals, and without the use of genetically modified (GM) crops. Consumer research indicates that ethical concerns related to standards of animal welfare also play a significant role in the decision to purchase organic food. In addition there is evidence that animal welfare is used by consumers as an indicator of other product attributes, such as safety and impact on human health.

European data show that organic eggs represent 10–20% of total egg sales and there is a willingness of consumers to pay a relatively high price premium for these eggs. Another development showing a change in ­consumer behaviour is that many supermarkets in

North America now sell organic products.

 

2 Aims and Principles of Organic Poultry Production

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2

Aims and Principles of

Organic Poultry Production

According to the Codex Alimentarius Com­ mission and the Joint Food and Agriculture

Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/

World Health Organization (WHO) Food

Standards Programme, organic agriculture is:

‘a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agroecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity . . . emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs as opposed to using synthetic materials. The primary goal is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people . . . the systems are based on specific and precise standards of production which aim at achieving optimal agroecosystems which are socially, ecologically and economically sustainable’

(Codex Alimentarius Commission, 1999).

Thus organic poultry production dif­ fers from conventional production and in many ways is close to the agriculture of

 

3 Elements of Poultry Nutrition

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3

Elements of Poultry Nutrition

Like all other animals, poultry require five components in their diet as a source of nutrients: energy, protein, minerals, vitamins and water. A  nutrient shortage or imbalance in relation to other nutrients will affect performance adversely. Poultry need a well-­ balanced and easily digested diet for optimal production of eggs and meat and are very sensitive to dietary quality because they grow quickly and make relatively little use of fibrous, bulky feeds such as lucerne hay or pasture, since they are non-­ ruminants and do not possess a complicated digestive system that allows efficient digestion of forage-­based diets.

Digestion and Absorption of Nutrients

Digestion is the preparation of feed for absorption, i.e. reduction of feed particles in size and solubility by mechanical and chemical means. A  summary outline of digestion and absorption in poultry follows. This provides a basic understanding of how the feed is digested and the nutrients absorbed. Readers interested in a more detailed explanation of this topic should consult a recent text on poultry nutrition or physiology.

 

4 Approved Ingredients for Organic Diets

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Approved Ingredients for Organic Diets

As with pigs and other livestock, the standards of organic poultry farming are based on the principles of enhancement and utilization of the natural biological cycles in soils, crops and livestock. Accordingly, organic poultry production should maintain or improve the natural resources of the farm system, including soil and water quality.

Another aim is to maximize the use of farmgrown feed ingredients in poultry and livestock production.

Feed, including pasture and forage, must be produced organically and health care treatments must fall within the range of accepted organic practices. Organic poultry health and performance should be optimized by application of the basic principles of husbandry, such as selection of appropriate breeds and strains, appropriate management practices and nutrition, and avoidance of overstocking. Rather than being designed to  maximize performance, the feeding programmes should be designed to minimize metabolic and physiological disorders, hence the requirement for some forage in the diet.

 

5 Diets for Organic Poultry Production

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5

Diets for Organic Poultry Production

Farms Producing No Feed Ingredients

in this book to help them set the dietary

­specifications with the feed manufacturer.

The purchased feed can be manufactured according to specifications set by the feed manufacturer, by the customer or by a con­ sultant. Most feed manufacturers are will­ ing to provide diets tailored to the wishes of customers and may even prepare mix­ tures ­according to formulas supplied by the customer. The feeds should be ordered regularly and not stored on the farm for extended periods.

One of the advantages of purchasing a complete feed is that the label provides useful information, including a list of ingredients (in some countries a complete formula) and a guaranteed analysis. The following information is required by law on commercial poultry feed labels (com­ plete feeds and supplements) in North

America:

These farms have to rely on purchased com­ plete feeds. The feeds should be obtained from reputable manufacturers, and pro­ ducers can use the information provided

 

6 Choosing the Right Breed and Strain

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6

Choosing the Right Breed and Strain

bird is preferred by some consumers, while others prefer white-skinned birds. Some consumers prefer white-shelled eggs, while others prefer eggs with tinted or coloured shells.

Some consumers prefer eggs with highly pigmented yolks.

There are four major sectors of poultry produce: chicken meat; turkey meat; eggs; and niche products such as game birds, waterfowl (ducks and geese), ratites (ostriches and emus), squabs (pigeons), silkie chickens, quail and quail eggs and game birds (pheasants, partridges, tinamou). All are produced organically in various parts of the world, the sectors differing in economical value in different regions.

One of the most striking consumer trends in recent years has been the increasing demand for natural and healthy foods where ethical issues (such as animal welfare and health) are also taken into consideration (Andersen et al.,

2005). Safety has also become a very import­ ant issue of concern in modern food production, prompted mainly by several health

 

7 Integrating Feeding Programmes into Organic Production Systems

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7

Integrating Feeding Programmes into Organic Production Systems

One of the aims of organic production is to manage poultry in such a way as to mimic as closely as possible the natural state. Thus, the production system is quite different from that used in conventional production, and the practical implication of these differences on organic production techniques needs to be recognized and quantified. The main differences between organic and conventional poultry production relate to housing system, access to outdoor areas, genotype, range of feedstuffs available for dietary use and disease prevention measures. Most of the research relating to this issue has been conducted with chickens (layers and meat birds) and the findings have to be extrapolated to other species when these are lacking.

Denmark is a leader in organic production systems and in organic food sales to consumers, therefore it is useful to review findings from that country. The EU regulations mandate a maximum flock size for layers of 3000 and for growing chickens of 4800. These flock sizes are below those often found in conventional free-range poultry production in some regions but are still much higher than what can be considered as natural flock sizes. The birds have to be kept under free-range conditions, i.e. having access to a hen-yard providing at least

 

8 Conclusions and Recommendations for the Future

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Conclusions and Recommendations for the Future

The organic poultry industry is small at present but is likely to expand in the future due to a strong demand from consumers for organic foods. Fortunately, poultry can be integrated more easily into many farming systems than other livestock can. Another attractive feature of organic poultry production is that its global warming potential is low. For instance, Herrero et  al. (2013) showed that on a global basis pork produced 24 kg carbon per kilogram edible protein, and poultry only 3.7 kg carbon/kg protein, compared with around 58–1000 kg carbon/kg protein from ruminant meat.

It is hoped that the information presented in this volume will assist that expansion. Until recently poultry producers lacked advisory aids to assist them in developing successful organic systems.

Organic eggs and poultry meat sell at a premium over their conventional products, which helps to offset the higher costs of organic production. As pointed out earlier in this volume, the two main reasons for the higher costs of organic production are:

 

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