September 14, 2018

In March 2018 I presented at the Midwest Poultry Show turkey production session. The title of my presentation was “Paying Attention to Detail– Raising Turkeys Without Antibiotics?”. I have spent a lot of time discussing the need to pay attention to detail. Why? Because in today’s animal production, we are moving toward no antibiotic use. We can no longer rely on the crutches of the past, as I listed them in that presentation (see slide below). We must figure out how to reduce stress and build insurance into our program. I have use the gear illustration below in most of my presentations and have discussed many of the cogs in past BVS Poultry Talk issues. One cog that continues to stand out in my travels that plagues the turkey industry when it comes to gut health is feed presentation. William Alexander, Hybrid Turkeys Technical Service Representative, does a great presentation on brooding turkeys for optimal growth. If you have not heard this presentation, I urge you to contact William and discuss it with him. In his presentation, he describes the how’s and why’s to brood turkeys to encourage feed consumption for growth and building the immune function of the GI tract. Once we have poults started the first seven days, we need to continue to encourage birds to stay on feed – for nutrient uptake, consumption of cocci control measures, and taking care of the immune function of the gut.

Keeping birds on feed consistently has been a challenge after seven days. Below is the consumption chart from the Hybrid Turkey web site for Converter males for the first four weeks of life. Notice the increase in feed
consumption week over week. It nearly doubles each week. Keeping birds on a consistent feeding pattern to attain this goal and a healthy gut is critical. Unfortunately, what I observe in the brood barns is this – we start with a crumb, which is like giving ice cream to a toddler, they increase consumption the first week, eating all the crumbs in site. The fines in the pans stay behind, because fines are like feeding some toddlers peas, liver,
or brussel sprouts (ok, I admit, they were/are not my favorites as a toddler or at 52 years old). Eventually the feed pans become impacted with fines. The only time the birds really want to get up and eat is when we make the feed lines run and some crumbs fall out of the line into the pan. These crumbs are consumed within minutes – some birds get to eat, some don’t. Eventually, we have birds standing around hunched up (no neckers, buzzard birds, etc) throughout the house around days 12-14. Gut samples are scraped and guess what we find – cocci, flagellated protozoa, and other bacteria – all because the birds have not been consistently consuming feed due to poor presentation. Cocci programs and other interventions are blamed for not working and we search for the silver bullet to correct the situation. In the past, we used products like feed grade penicillin, bacitracin and 3-Nitro to correct these gut health problems, and they worked! But today, we don’t have those tools.

On the next page is a progression of feed presentation through the first 10-14 days of what happens in the feed pan. A lot of producers end up dumping the fines out of the pans or try their best to reduce fines build up to stay out of this viscous cycle. I like to say we need a consistently crappy crumb from day one, which will work in most cases (many growers feeding mash feed tend to no see fines separation) or make a consistently good crumb all the time. Most feed mills are measured on throughput and cost per ton. That combination does not lend itself to a consistently good crumb all the time. There is a disconnect between what the live production people in the field need and how the feed mill is measured.

Feed presentation is critical to gut health. Keeping birds on feed and water will improve gut integrity and immune response to challenges birds face without antibiotics.

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John Menges

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