The Precision Broiler Breeder Feeding system (prototype is behind chick eating from hand) is proving that it results in more uniform birds
Broilers have been genetically selected for increased growth rates, which is associated with increased appetite. Feed restriction is the management strategy used commercially to prevent breeder hens from expressing their genetic potential for growth. Uniformity of flocks remains a key challenge encountered by hatching egg producers as poor body weight uniformity results in low reproductive success. Feed restriction does not match nutrient supply to nutrient requirement in non-uniform flocks. This problem is exacerbated during puberty and after peak egg production when feed allocations must be reduced to control body weight, but be sufficient to maximize chick production.
Dr. Martin Zuidhof and his research team from the University of Alberta have recently completed a study to develop, and validate a Precision Broiler Breeder Feeding System (PBBFS). This unique feeding system accurately distributes feed to individual birds when their body weight is lower than their target weight. Following results obtained from pilot studies, a beta prototype of the PBBFS was developed.*
This article focuses on a production study performed with this prototype to determine if flock uniformity and body weight control was improved by precision feeding (PF) compared to conventional feeding (CF) restriction regimes. The study was performed using 10-week old Ross 308 broiler breeder pullets with five individual PF target body weight profiles versus the skip-a-day CF restriction regimes. Additionally, Dr. Zuidhof and his team investigated the effects of the PBBFS on feed efficiency, birds’ available metabolizable energy for growth and maintenance, behavioural traits, and water consumption.
Overall, the findings show that PF birds matched the target body weights within two per cent variation and flock uniformity reached 100 per cent. Feed efficiency was improved, maintenance metabolizable energy requirements were lowered, cumulative feed conversion rate was reduced, and no difference was observed in water consumption. Behaviourally, the birds were less active, performed more sitting and laying, and less feather pecking and foraging compared to CF birds.
As Dr. Zuidhof continues to optimize this PBBFS, he anticipates that improvements will be made to overcome limitations identified in this trial. Currently the research team is determining the impact of stocking pressure on birds transitioning to PF and developing standard operating and remedial protocols to ensure all birds are fed by the PF system. The researchers aim to facilitate the implementation of this PBBFS for large commercial flocks of free run broiler breeders.
This project was funded by the Poultry Industry Council, OBCHEPA.
Alberta Meat and Livestock Agency, Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, Danisco, Alberta Hatching Egg Producers, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, Alberta Chicken Producers, Maple Leaf Poultry and OBHECC.
Initial pilot study results were published in the October 2014 issue of Canadian Poultry Magazine.