Sprouted Fodder Gives Poultry a Boost

Sprouted seeds in feed given to laying hens could boost financial returns for farmers and free up land for food production, a new study has found.

A pioneering trial suggests that including sprouted seeds in hens ration meant they could produce the same number of eggs with less dry matter. Hens fed a mix of sprouted seeds in a trial at Duchy College, Cornwall, needed 25% less overall feed. Performance was looked at over a number of months, with the birds monitored for weight gain, number of eggs laid, egg weight and the weight of the eggs yolk and albumen.

The trial, carried out at Duchy College in Cornwall, fed groups of hens their usual ration for six weeks and then a mixture of 50% sprouted barley and 50% layers pellets for a second six week period. The birds were fed the same weight of food over the whole trial, but the water content of the sprouts meant there was a big difference in dry matter intake. When on the diet of sprouted seeds, the hens were receiving 25% less dry matter, without affecting their weight or production. In fact, egg production was actually higher when the hens were fed on sprouted seeds, although this is more likely due to the birds’ age than their diet.

More trials are needed, but it seems the hens were using the food more efficiently, to perform at the same level but with less input. This is the first formal research into this idea.

The results found that feeding laying hens a diet of half sprouted barley grain and half commercial feed showed a significant increase in the total egg, yolk and albumen weight. There was also a rise in the number of eggs laid compared to a diet of only sprouted grain or only commercial feed.

Lower Costs

The trial took place due to claims that the sprouting activates nutrients making them easier for the hens to absorb. This is thought to make the feed more nutritious, lowering costs and reducing the space needed to grow feed crops.

Richard Kempsey, technical director at Stonegate, said he was encouraged by the results: “If we can replicate the reduction in feed costs, at scale, whilst maintaining production and welfare standards, it would be of significant benefit to the sector,” he said.

Innovative Farmers now hopes to continue the trials and establish whether the results can be repeated at scale. If so, and with cost-efficient growing systems, the benefits could be huge. Feeding sprouts could reduce the total land required for livestock feed, whilst producing high quality feed on-farm could protect farm resilience and improve finances.

In summary, the results indicate that the incorporation of sprouted seeds can lead to significant reductions in feed intake and lower costs.

Note: Innovative Farmers is a network of farmers and growers who are running on-farm trials.

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