AGRAVIS Raiffeisen AG develops a 7-phase feed programme

In Germany turkeys are fattened on intensive production lines, then cut up and processed. These lines are characterised by high final weights, good feed conversions, and high meat yields. A special feed that is adapted to animal requirements is necessary for fattening. The typical 6-phase feed for turkey farming has been further developed by AGRAVIS Raiffeisen AG into a 7-phase feeding programme that is better suited to the nutritional requirements of modern lines.

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Turkey poults have particularly demanding requirements regarding the digestibility and the composition of feed. AGRAVIS Raiffeisen AG develops a 7-phase feed programme
Turkey poults have particularly demanding requirements regarding the digestibility and the composition of feed.

The growth curves of cocks and hens differ. For this reason, turkeys are fattened in single-gender groups. Fattening female turkeys lasts until the 16th week of life, whilst the male turkeys are fattened until the 21st week. Meat develops quicker on hens and they are fully fattened at an earlier stage. For this reason the feed phases in fattening hens can be brought forward.

The optimum turkey feed for every phase

Turkey poults have particularly demanding requirements regarding the digestibility and the composition of feed. Starter feeds P1 and P2 have high protein contents due to the high levels of amino acids required by chicks, and these can only be achieved by high proportions of extracted soy bean meal in standard compound feed. Vegetable protein sources such as extracted soy bean, rape, and sunflower meal contain particularly high levels of potassium. Turkey feed based on extracted soy bean meal and grain has potassium contents that exceed requirements twice or three times over. Excess potassium can lead to increased water absorption and increased water content in faeces. The principle “less is more” applies to calcium as the last drop can be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Furthermore, soy bean meal and other leguminous plants also have high levels of alpha galactosidases. These are oligosaccharides that are indigestible for the animal, but can be very readily used by microbes in the colon. If there are too many of these oligosaccharides in the feed, it can lead to digestive problems such as wind or diarrhoea.

Starter feed contains potato protein

For this reason, it is recommended that part of the soy bean meal is replaced by protein sources that are low in potassium and oligosaccharides. There are only a few vegetable protein sources available that have low quantities of potassium and oligosaccharides. Protein sources from animals are, on the other hand, generally low in potassium and free of oligosaccharides. As one of the few protein animal feeds, fish meal is permitted in feeding poultry and pigs. Animal-based raw materials must only be processed in plants that do not produce ruminant feed. For this reason the starter feed in the AGRAVIS turkey feed programme contains potato protein. Potato protein is one of the few vegetable protein sources that contains no oligosaccharides and little potassium. In addition, turkey starter feed containing fish meal is provided from the plant in Höltinghausen since last autumn.

Setting the pace of digestion: the gizzard

The particle structure influences the digestive tract and the course of digestion. The consumed feed first enters the crop before entering the small intestine via the proventriculus and the gizzard. The feed is mixed with proteolytic enzymes and hydrochloric acid in the proventriculus. The gizzard shreds the feed particles and mixes it with the digestive enzymes. The feed is only forwarded by the gizzard into the small intestine when it is rendered fine enough. The gizzard is, to some extent, the pace of digestion. The feed is digested in the small intestine with the aid of additional digestive enzymes, which are created in the pancreas and the intestinal wall then distributed in the intestine.

Turkeys digest coarsely cut feed better

Coarser feed particles trigger more intensive work from the gizzard. The muscles become stronger and it can fulfil its function better. Various tests have shown that turkeys can digest uncut or coarsely cut grain better than finely ground grain. Coarse feed particles slow down the rate through which it passes through the intestine. This means that the digestive tract has more time to digest the feed. Compound feed with higher proportions of coarse feed particles from grain improve digestion, particularly digestion of starch. Large proportions of fine grain particles, on the other hand, can increase the viscosity of the contents in the small intestine, which has a negative effect on digestion and intestinal flora. If the feed ration contains too many coarse particles then feed absorption can fall and lead to lower final weights. However, this does not hamper feed conversion. For this reason, part of the maize in AGRAVIS turkey feed pellets after pelletisation is in the form of broken corn to support the digestive process and intestinal health.

Questions regarding turkey farming can be answered by Dr Ludger Koddebusch, tel. +49 - 251 682-2285,

Information: The average citizen ate approximately 11.6 kilograms of poultry in 2015.