By Dave Laurin
Expert shares turkey nutrition insights.
By Dave Laurin
Did you know that feed accounts for over 50 per cent of the cost to raise a flock of turkeys? Therefore, it is no surprise that growers look to this area to reduce operating costs. Hybrid Turkeys consulting nutritionist, Dave Laurin, suggests although the action may save money in the short term, it can have unfavourable and lasting effects on the health and performance of a flock. We asked him five questions.
Tell us about yourself.
I am the owner and founder of RAC Nutrition, a consulting service that provides nutrition advice for all poultry species (turkeys, chickens, gamebirds) and swine. I graduated from the University of California – Davis (U.S.) with a Ph.D. in Nutrition. Since 2005 I have been working with Hybrid Turkeys as consulting nutritionist.
Why is nutrition so important to raising turkeys?
Feed is the largest economic input in turkey production and is responsible for supplying the required nutrients for growth and development. Any feed given to a turkey flock should be professionally and scientifically formulated to ensure all needs are met and to help growers achieve the results they expect. Any feed-related decisions should be done in consultation with a trained expert who uses their expertise and specialized computer software to formulate diets.
When is the role of nutrition the most important for the development of turkeys?
Feed plays a key role at all ages but if I had to pick an age, particularly when speaking about development, the earliest feeds are most important. From placement through to six weeks of age is critically important because there are certain physiological developments that happen during that time that if missed, you are unable to correct for later in life.
What types of issues can arise from extreme deviations to diet recommendations?
Nutrition-based issues become apparent early in life, around two to four weeks of age. Symptoms such as poor development of the growth plate in the leg bones can be seen manifesting itself as twisted legs or ‘cowboys’. Bone mineralization issues are generally classified as ‘rickets’ or ‘soft bones’. Both issues can build up stress and cause mobility issues, which may lead to poor performance and ultimately increased mortality. Leg development tends to be the number one issue I see in the field related to poor nutrition.
Issues can also arise from improper formulation of diets, specifically regarding calcium and phosphorus levels. Also common is a lack of required vitamins in the feed such as vitamin D and the B complex vitamins that are essential for strong bones. Additionally, deviations can affect the digestive system and cause a variety of health concerns.
What can be done to get turkey’s health back on track?
The earlier you address these issues the better, because course-correction becomes more difficult the longer the issue persists. If you fear limitations in your diet composition are causing problems, you can consider adding things to your water, such as vitamins.