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NUTRITION ▶▶▶


Improving shell quality and egg quantity with the right minerals


Through years of genetic improvement layers have been selected for their ability to lay an egg every day. But as with human top athletes, all the variables need to be right for optimal performance. Nutrition plays a key part in this, more specifically, precision trace mineral inclusion in the ration. As Alice Hibbert, Trouw Nutrition’s global programme manager for trace minerals, explained during a recent online seminar.


BY FABIAN BROCKÖTTER I


n an ideal situation, an egg farmer hopes to have an egg a day per housed hen across the entire laying cycle. Given the commercial production pressures, this proves impos- sible, so the next quest is to get as close as possible to


that situation. However, there are many variables which stand in the way of achieving it. Apart from the fact that even high-producing hens tend to skip a day now and then, older hens produce less and certain stressors too, can impact over- all production. Disease status and pressure, heat stress and negative nutritional interactions will all affect egg production performance. And it does not end there. Suboptimal condi- tions not only impact egg numbers, but egg quality as well. Plus, an increase in the number of cracked eggs or second grade eggs will have a significant negative effect on the overall farm performance.


Mitigating stressors To form the best egg possible, the hen needs the proverbial building blocks necessary to do so. That means presenting them with the blocks on a silver platter, via the feed. Alice Hibbert: “When we look at commercial layer production, egg- shell quality and numbers are the most important key perfor- mance indicators (KPIs). That’s where trace minerals come into play. Trace minerals are vital as they have many impor- tant functions within the body and in the bird’s metabolism. The level of trace minerals in our main feed ingredients is


36 ▶ POULTRY WORLD | No. 3, 2021


generally quite low, so we cannot be sure that the animal gets its nutritional requirements met just from feeding these raw materials alone. This defines the essential requirement to supplement trace minerals in the feed in order to make sure the animal is getting its real nutritional requirements met. The bird needs more trace mineral to support immune func- tion when there is high disease pressure, placing its immune system under pressure.” “When we talk about trace minerals in feed, it is important to consider the source and the amount of trace mineral which can be absorbed into the bloodstream, thereby making it available to support these important functions. It’s worth mentioning that the reactivity of different trace mineral sources in feed can hugely affect the availability or bio-vaila- bility of the trace mineral in the small intestine (absorption site). Bio-availability is really important when considering the trace mineral source you are going to utilise in feed which will then have a knock-on effect on how the trace mineral can support bodily functions, and ultimately profitability and performance.


Egg formation Hibbert continues: “There are many different ways that trace minerals have an interaction with the quality of egg shells. Zinc, copper and manganese are the three most important trace minerals and they have both catalytic and structural properties. There are various enzymatic reactions required to make the components of the shell. Zinc catalyses carbonic anhydrase, which is needed to deposit calcium carbonate in the shell matrix, Copper is required for the synthesis of colla- gen found in eggshell membranes and manganese helps to deposit proteins in the eggshell matrix. Supplementation of these trace minerals can improve eggshell breaking strength and decrease the percentage of broken eggs.” As a trace mineral expert, Hibbert knows that the trace min- eral requirements of birds change over time. “Laying hens need more support at certain stressful periods in the laying cycle, especially during early lay until peak production and again in late lay. In early lay the bird has to adjust to


PHOTO: TON KASTERMANS


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