Many poultry companies involved in breeding and genetics have spent years researching the breeds that are excellent in terms of livability, production, and egg quality. The most common commercial layer breeds in this region are ISA Brown, Hy-line, Lohmann and Shavers. With little differences in between, these hybrid flocks generally have exceptional feed conversion efficiencies and are considered profitable brown egg layers.
They have great laying persistency from age of 18 weeks to 90 weeks, low cumulative mortality of 6-8 per cent, high peak egg production of 95-97 per cent. On average one hen can produce up to 420 eggs at 90 weeks of age on good animal husbandry. But these are genetic potentials that need to be harnessed in the farm through good practices, suitable environmental conditions, great skills, and vast experiences to realise one’s dreams. Here are six tips for a good egg production in your flock.
Most egg layer farmers are now aware of the need to provide chicks with good housing and brooding conditions in the first three weeks of their lives. Juvenile birds are incapable of regulating their body temperatures and therefore the need to provide enough warmth, adequate ventilation, feed, and water always. What many farmers do not realise is that these pullets need to attain a particular weight at five weeks of age to prepare them well in advance as an egg producing machine. To achieve that, you need feed with high dietary energy levels (2,700-3,100 kilocalories) and protein levels of 20 per cent. Weigh a sample of your birds everyday and compare with the expected growth chart for the breed you are keeping. Most manuals states that any delay in growth during the first weeks will be reflected in a reduced bodyweight at 17 weeks and in later performance. It is therefore extremely important to use a starter diet for the first four or five weeks, which has an amino acid/protein ratio like that of a broiler. Any amino acid deficiency will result in a reduction in growth and an increase in the FCR.
Birds grow well if their digestive system is well developed, especially the gizzard. To achieve that, provide feed of good particle size, especially during rearing period. Giving grits or limestone granules after 10 weeks will give good gizzard development and hence rapid increase in feed consumption at start of lay. Giving 3-5g of grits (2-4mm particle size) per pullet per week is a good way to prepare for better egg production during laying period.
Birds are very sensitive to feed presentation. I have seen farmers keep changing from one feed supplier to another and in some instances mixing two feeds from different suppliers. Any introduction of new raw materials in feed during production period can automatically result into drop in production. For this reason, we recommend a limited number of feed changes.
There are many disease-causing germs that affect the immune system and reproductive organs of chickens. Most of these diseases are preventable by good vaccination programme. It is therefore important that a sound and well-designed immunization programme is established and reviewed from time to time depending on the disease map of the region. Diseases such as Marek’s, Infectious bronchitis, Mycoplasmas, Egg drop syndrome, salmonellosis all of which are linked to production drops should be managed by a good vaccination plan.
Are your flocks obese or extremely under weight? Birds weighing less than 1,300g will struggle to commence egg production, while fat and overweight birds with excess adipose fat will stop egg production.
Water is the single most critical nutrient in poultry production and any limitation on intake or quality has a negative impact on egg production. Birds take twice as much of the water as feed. During hot period, cool water will improve productivity. Protect the water tanks from direct sunlight by painting them white.
[The writer is the Head Vet at Kenchic, [email protected]]