Cutting Layer Hen Costs

I started with Growers Nutritional Solutions in 1992, and, along with having worked with GNS District Manager Paul Campbell for several years, have come to realize the poor nutrient levels in today's farm products are a big problem.

By Francis Cornish, Canadian Growers Representative

FrancisCornish200.jpgI started with Growers Nutritional Solutions in 1992, and, along with having worked with GNS District Manager Paul Campbell for several years, have come to realize the poor nutrient levels in today's farm products are a big problem.  We see variations in the feed quality being furnished to our layer chickens which requires us to make constant changes in the amount of GNS we give them.  The poorer the quality, the harder it is to adjust.

In 1994 I began feeding my laying hens GNS at 2 ounces per 1000 pounds of body weight through their drinking water.  There were some positive results, but they were not consistent through the flock year.

While watching and studying my hens, I began experimenting to see how they reacted to the varying levels of GNS given.  These are some of my observations:

When GNS levels are too high, the hens cut back on their feed and water intake.

Francis-Cornish-03.gifWhen GNS levels are too low, the hens eat some feed, but act as if you have not fed them.  At the same time, they go through the GNS/water mix in the medicator faster, which shows they are lacking the nutrients available in GNS.

After several flocks, the last showed the best results of my "ounces per 1000 hens per week" theory.  The feed delivered to my operation was not altered in any way, but GNS and Spanish River Carbonate (calcium) were added as supplements.  The GNS addition to our water system is evenly divided and takes place on two or three equally spaced days during the week.  For example, if the hens are to receive 2.7 ounces per 1000 hens per week, they will receive 1.3 ounces Monday and 1.4 ounces Thursday.

The hens are fully-grown when we put them into production, but we want to gradually introduce them to GNS.  The following GNS rates seem to be working but may vary as feed quality and weather conditions change:

First week    2.7 ounces of GNS per 1000 hens per week.    
Second week    4.3 ounces of GNS per 1000 hens per week.
Third week    6.4 ounces of GNS per 1000 hens per week.

I continue the 6.4 ounce rate up to when production peaks and starts to fall which is when they are probably getting too much GNS and are cutting back on their feed.  I then go back to the 2.7 ounces rate until they are down to 87 or 88 percent of their peak production.  (My feed specialist feels the addition of more fiber and starch in the ration could eliminate the need to lower the GNS rate right after peak production.  Problem is, we have no control over the ration makeup.)  At this point I start increasing the GNS rate up to at least the 6.4 ounces level, and, if they can handle it, even as high as the 12.9 ounces level, until they are removed from the facility.

The birds from the last flock weighed 1.74 kg. (3.8 lb.) going out which is quite high.  Paul Dale, our feed specialist and customer service representative for Fisher Feeds Limited of Listowell, Ontario, commented that they were bright and did not have the typical burnt-out look at the end.  After following our production and feed intake the last two years, Paul has shown considerable interest in feeding GNS to hens.  The feed conversion, hen loss, feed cost savings and egg production numbers are getting his attention.

Our year-end feed conversion was 1.24 kg. (2.7 lb.) of feed per dozen eggs while others' flocks were averaging 1.40 kg. (3.8 lb.).  This should show feed cost savings of $3,971.50 (Canadian) for our 3,731 hens over a 50-week production period figuring 0.16 kg. feed savings per dozen eggs, times 95,469 the total dozen eggs, times $0.26 the average feed price per kilogram.  All this was done with a total of 6.7 US gallons of Growers Nutritional Solutions of the 50-week "flock year."

Other significant numbers:

  • 90% plus laying production for 33 weeks    
  • Last (50th) week going out production was 84%    
  • Hen loss for the year was 5.5% (less than 1/2% per month)    
  • Cracked eggs were 2.56% and rejects were 0.64% for the flock year.

Area production figures are not available to us, but from the rumors we hear about the problems around we think others' production averages would be 80% or less, hen losses at 5.5% to 7.5% and cracked eggs and rejects much higher than ours.

Others may see results different than mine, but using the "ounces per 1000 hens per week" has worked well with our last three flocks, the last being the best.

PS:  Our current flock, as of 43 weeks has used 3 times as much GNS as the last flock while still using the "1 ounce per 1000 hens per week" idea.  I am now at 30 ounces per week and running 95.5% hen production.  We ran 12 weeks at 96% and one week at 97% with a slightly higher death loss at just over 1/2% per month.  I think more GNS is being used because of poor feed quality.  From one year to the next, crops will have different levels of available true trace elements, which will vary the amount of GNS the livestock will need.  This is why you need to continuously observe your hens and let them dictate the level of GNS to be added to their water.  We think our feeding rates would be more consistent if we could be using our own Growers grown corn and soybeans in the ration.

Other hen feeding notes:

  • 35% Hydrogen peroxide at 40 to 50 ppms is added to the water at all times.
  • A blue acid product is added on the days GNS is introduced to help control water line bacterial growth.
  • Apple cider vinegar is used at 4 liters at a time when cage fatigue shows, but it increases bacterial growth.  It should not be used with the GNS and blue acid mix.  
  • For supplemental calcium I have been using a Canadian product called Spanish River Carbonate which helps lower cracks and seems to help with mite control.

For more in depth information, contact the Growers office and refer to this article.

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