Split Feeding System for More Sustainable Egg Production04 March 2014
The Split Feeding System delivers the optimal supply of nutrients in order to meet the specific needs of the hen during the egg formation process by supplying two different feeds per day.
Nutreco's Research & Development group has been developing a new feeding programme since 2005 to feed laying hens according to the specific nutrient requirement of egg formation phase that varies throughout the day.
This feeding programme results in a more profitable egg production through reduced cost of production, improved eggshell quality, increased number of marketable eggs and improved performance under sustainability criteria.
Laying hens lay the majority of their eggs during the morning (Etches, 1986; Larbier and Leclercq, 1992). The interval between two successive ovipositions is about 24 hours or slightly greater (Keshavarz, 1998). After oviposition, the subsequent ovulation occurs about 30 minutes later.
During the first four hours, the egg white is formed. Thereafter, the egg moves through the shell gland and the shell is deposited around the albumen during approximately the next 20 hours (Larbier and Leclercq, 1992). This shell formation mainly takes place during the evening and night.
The requirements of laying hens for amino acids, energy, calcium and phosphorus do not remain constant but vary during the day. This depends on the hen's physiological needs for formation of the various components of the egg.
Current methods of feeding laying hens with one diet with constant levels of nutrients may not result in optimal utilisation of the nutrients (Chah, 1972; Leeson and Summers, 1997).
When birds are offered diets that allow self-selection of nutrients, there is an increased intake of protein and energy observed in the morning around time when the egg is produced. The intake of calcium is higher during the later part of the day. In a study by Chah (1972) in which hens were offered diets that allow self-selection of nutrients, the total daily intake of protein was 11 per cent lower, while intakes of energy and calcium were eight per cent and 26 per cent, respectively, lower than hens fed a single, normal diet (Figure 1).
This suggests that the hen is using the energy, amino acids, calcium and phosphorus more efficiently by consuming these nutrients at moments of the day when the requirements are high. Therefore, the current practice of providing hens with only one diet might not be an ideal approach for optimal utilisation of nutrients.
Experimental Design Trials
Nutreco R&D has been developing a new feeding programme since 2005 to feed laying hens according to the specific nutrient requirement for egg formation that varies throughout the day.
The main objective of the research was to determine accurately the nutrient requirements of energy, amino acids, calcium and phosphorus during the morning and the afternoon when two diets were fed.
The finding of this research resulted in the development of the Split Feeding programme where two diets are used to meet the dynamic requirements egg formation:
- Morning diet : meets the requirements of early phases of egg formation
- Afternoon feed: meets the requirements of shell formation
Each experiment performed focused on a single nutrient in order to obtain the optimum level for the morning and afternoon feeds. Each nutrient was tested in laying hens during early and late lay. In addition, a trial using the Split Feeding System, including the optimum level of each nutrient, was performed for a whole cycle. All experiments consisted of several treatments and a control group which was fed a single diet. Number of replicates per treatment consisted of at least 36 individually housed hens.
As a result of the trials, new requirements for energy, amino acids, calcium and phosphorus were obtained for the morning and afternoon diets.
Compared to the single feed, the total intake of those nutrients can be reduced to an extent (Figure 2). As well as the reduction in nutrient intake, performance was at least as good as when a single feed is applied. Extra benefits were also observed during the project.
Split Feeding improves eggshell quality
From all the experiments performed with the Split Feeding system, a consistent improvement in eggshell quality (eggshell weight, thickness or SWUSA = eggshell weight per unit of surface area) compared to a single control feed, was observed (Figure 3).
The effect of a change in feeding system was tested in an old flock (from 91 to 98 weeks of age). The first four weeks (weeks 91 to 94), a single feed was used and the next four weeks (weeks 95 to 98), laying hens were fed with an equivalent Split Feeding programme.
The Split Feeding system significantly reduced the percentage of broken and shell-less eggs compared to the values obtained during the preceding period, when using a single feed system, and significantly increased the number of sellable eggs (Figure 4).
|Single versus Split feeding: effects on egg production|
|Diet and period||Eggs produced||Sellable eggs produced|
|Single feed (91-94 wks)||73.17||66.74 b|
|Split Feeding (95-98 wks)||72.23||69.26 a|
Split Feeding consistently reduces the amount of nutrient loss in excreta
In the three experiments in which the effects of Split Feeding on nutrient excretion were studied, the results proved Split Feeding is a more sustainable feeding programme because of the reduced levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium in the excreta (Figure 5).
A lower daily nutrient intake and better use of those nutrients were achieved with the Split Feeding system as nutrients are provided when the laying hens require them.
The Split Feeding system is an alternative system for feeding layers. With this system the laying hen is closer to the voluntary and physiological feeding behaviour and adjusts its nutrient intake according to the different requirements throughout the day.
For that purpose two different diets are provided:
- The morning diet is designed to fit requirements during the morning when the albumen is being formed, and ovulation and oviposition occur.
- The afternoon diet is designed to meet requirements for eggshell formation.
This adaptation to the physiological requirements of the laying hen during the day allows the Split Feeding system to be a more efficient feeding programme:
- Split Feeding brings the optimal supply of nutrients in order to meet the needs of hens in the egg formation process and more profitable and sustainable egg production, with a lower production cost.
- Split Feeding offers the following benefits:
- More profitable egg production by reduction of production cost.
- Improved eggshell quality and increased number of marketed eggs.
- Improved nutrient efficiency and sustainability.