Recent investment at its Penrith feed mill has allowed national feed manufacturer ForFarmers to increase the sustainability of the organic poultry feeds made there.

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The capital investment project at Penrith has included the installation of a holding tank specifically for organic soya oil, along with a dedicated delivery system. Quantities of oil can now be directly metered into the mixer, which is linked to the mill’s computerized manufacturing and formulation software. The use of oil further improves the quality, consistency, flow through feeding systems and palatability of the diet.

Iain Campbell, poultry specialist at ForFarmers, says the company’s new Natural Organic range sits within the company’s VitaFocus layer portfolio which includes the Supreme, Caledonian and Prestige products. He adds that the new rations utilise nutritional concepts that support shell and egg quality; and egg size over longer laying cycles. Manufacture started in February, with the new rations and phased feeding system now being supplied to both organic egg and pullet producers, allowing them to fully exploit the same layer genetics used in conventional free-range and colony-cage systems.

ForFarmers notes that organic poultry diet formulations had previously been limited by space in the ration, as higher levels of cereals – particularly maize – were included in order supply sufficient energy to the birds. “Egg production requires a lot of calories. Including organic oil means we can supply the energy hens need, and free up space in the diets,” states Mr Campbell.

“Due to the nutritional needs of organic poultry, we’ve used our resources and purchasing power to source organic soya oil manufactured in Europe. Access to organic soya oil has enabled ForFarmers to revolutionise organic layer diets,” he continues. “Until now, UK feed mills haven’t had ready access to organic oil due to limited holding tank space and little cultivation of organic soya.”

The higher oil content also enables the feed to be made as a mash – most organic layer feed is produced as a crumb to avoid the problem of a lack of oil resulting in a dry, dusty feed. “A mash is undoubtedly the best way to feed laying hens – the availability of organic oil has allowed us to produce our organic rations in this form. There are significant advantages in terms of gizzard function, digestibility and efficiency,” states Mr Campbell.

Delivering the amino acid requirements of an organic layer diet is also difficult without access to pure individual amino acids, continues Mr Campbell. This inevitably leads to an oversupply of protein, which in turn has a negative effect on gut health, leading to wet litter. “Achieving the level of methionine required for optimal egg production is a particular issue. The new diets include feed materials that support the bird’s functional methionine requirements and methionine regeneration; freeing up other sources of the amino acid for structural processes essential for increased productivity and egg size.”

Mr Campbell notes that the use of GM technology in feed enzyme manufacture has traditionally prohibited the inclusion of these additives in organic feeds. However, ForFarmers has identified a multi-functional enzyme that is produced naturally without GM technology, and so is compatible with organic values. This additive is primarily designed to aid the digestion of feed by assisting the breakdown of components from cereals – the multi-enzyme product helps overall digestive efficiency, promotes intestinal health and helps reduce the moisture content of poultry manure.

“In the new diets we are able to more easily meet energy requirements from oil supplementation and are able to more fully exploit medium energy ingredients such as sunflower meal. This, as well as providing protein, is an excellent source of structural fibre which improves gizzard function and helps support intestinal health.

“By investing technically in our diet offering, we are now able to supply the ration that all organic egg producers need. With the benefits of a mash, this cutting-edge nutritional development, allows organic layers to fulfil their genetic potential,” Mr Campbell concludes.