Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 Poultry Report

I mix most of my feed except for chick starter. These animals grow so fast that it doesn’t make sense to me to not give them the best start possible. I buy bulk whole grains from Concentrates NW and Azure Standard. I make my own modified mix for my adult birds that contains a combination of rolled and cracked grains, peas, supplements, and grit. I don’t use corn or soy. You can also buy an organic corn/soy free mix, Cascade Poultry Mix (chick, starter, and layer) from Azure Standard and the Urban Farm Store. It wouldn't hurt to consider adding a vitamin supplement to put in water like “Broiler Booster” or similar additives that contain probiotics, vitamins, and biotin which is recommended when raising fast growing birds like Cornish X Rocks.

Sprouted grains are a part of the daily ration. The chickens come running when they see that coming. Sprouted grains don’t change the amount of or quality of protein, but in trials done sprouting a portion of the ration birds showed a higher weight gain, in other words-better utilization, without feeding enzymes as an additive to the feed. Sprouting grains deactivates anti-nutrients like phytates that are present in the bran in all grains. It also activates enzymes and by turning a relatively inert grain into a vegetable it becomes more digestible as well. Phytates can also be neutralized by fermenting cereal grains. Phytates bind our ability to absorb metallic nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Fermenting or sprouting grains neutralizes phytates found in bran but not soy.

Here is a article about soy and anti-nutrients Soy is being oversold in this country because it is cheap to grow and extremely profitable but there are some very compelling reasons not to eat it in any form or feed it to your animals. If you are going to feed soy and you are starting out with raw untreated grain then find and use directions for preparing it for use. Soy should be roasted before feeding it to animals. In China and Japan, where soy comes from, it is a very, very, small part of the diet.

According to Harvey Ussery, barley and oats should not be more than 15% of the diet because of digestive problems caused by high levels of saponins. Other sources said that saponins were helpful. As I understand it, they aren’t harmful but may be a limiting factor and reduce the feed conversion efficiency. If you are making your own feed for pullets one way to give a nutritional balance of vitamins and hard to come by nutrients like methionone is to use a product like Fertrell Poultry Nutri-Balancer. This contains calcium, phosphorous, vitamins, salt, and probiotics, and methionone.

One of the essential amino acids, methionone is sulfur based.  It is often fed as an additive and is only found in meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Amino acids are considered essential if animals cannot manufacture it for their own use, it must be fed. Several amino acids like cysteine and taurine, and enzymes like ATP and SAMe are derived from methionone. A lack of methionone is another limiting factor in the growth and feed conversion of poultry, although some articles appeared recently that suggested growing meat birds more slowly in a free range setting without feeding additional methionone. For more information about amino acids  in different feed stocks a good book to have in your library, especially if you are vegetarian, is "Diet for a Small Planet".

If you are eating vegetarian eggs then they are probably feeding the chickens artificial methionone, although if you are eating truly free range eggs they are probably getting it from bugs and other things they are finding in the field which raises the question “Can I eat bugs and be vegetarian?” A recent survey of our flock was inconclusive on their feelings on this subject. Some people set up grub stations to feed their birds by attracting black soldier fly grubs. During the warm weather you can supplement the diets of ducks and provide hours of entertainment for them by leaving a light bulb just out of reach in their pen because they are excellent at snapping up flying insects.

Instead of salt I use SEA-90 We have also replaced salt in our house with SEA-90. For table use I bake it which turns it into chocolate brown chunks that are easier to grind with a small spice grinder. When making things like garlic salt I just whiz it for a few seconds in a small coffee mill to get super fine flakes. Most of the hand harvested salt we buy is collected by taking the mostly purified crystals that form by capillary action at the top of large windrows inside salt lagoons or ponds. SEA-90 is made by taking the entire windrow so it includes massive amounts of micro-nutrients, all of the minerals that were in the sea water, not just the salt. Since it only costs about forty cents a pound I have to laugh every time I go into Whole Foods and see the stuff they are selling there for ten to twenty times that.

From what I understand, except for some special situations, you are not going to hurt your birds if they don’t have completely balanced feed every day. An exception would be something like raising meat birds. You need to be on top of vitamins and supplements from day one to make sure that you don’t induce structural defects like splayed leg. My layer pullets get at least half of their feed from different portions of my yard inside a moving 625 sq ft poultry net enclosure that can be electrified if needed. We usually don’t electrify it and sometimes one of the birds will find itself on the other side of the fence, mostly because our birds are still young and smaller. After the first couple of times being herded back into the fence they tend to avoid that. Every time we move we need to watch them for a couple of days to make sure they are staying put. So far it has worked really well. You can see more about movable fencing at Premier1.

The meat bird that several people in our area are trying this year is the Freedom Ranger. This is a bird that was bred for pasture and is slower growing than the Cornish X Rock. Word is that this is a superior bird in every way. Cheaper to raise, healthier, better tasting, excellent forager, etc.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Feeding the New Ducks

Just found some interesting information about ducks that is different than chickens. I thought someone told me that they need vitamin B12 but Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks says it is Niacin, vitamin B3. Ducklings need 35 mg per pound of feed from 0-2 weeks, and 30mg weeks 3-10. Ducks can be permanently crippled if not fed enough Niacin.

You can add it directly to their water by crushing 100-150 mg worth of tablets per gallon of water or 2-3 cups of commercial grade brewers yeast per 10 pounds of feed. There is a lot of new information in this book that isn't covered in the chicken books. I recommend getting or reading this book before you get ducks. Bad me. It also has a lot of recipes in the back for make your own duck food including variations that allow you to choose wheat or corn as the base ingredient. Another recommendation was to stick with pellets instead of ground mash to keep the duck's bills and water cleaner since they are constantly washing and eating with wet beaks. That can get very messy. Now, where can I find that home pelleting machine............ It may be time to get a mill that makes rolled grains. Many birds will eat whole grains but the feed conversion isn't as good.