Feeding a 50/50 diet of mash and scratch.

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Fairview01, Jun 9, 2017.

  1. Fairview01

    Fairview01 Songster

    Jan 26, 2017
    Dallas, TX
    So I was on this site (http://archive.org) reading about some ancient USDA poultry management practices. This one caught my attention. It recommended feeding scratch ( equal parts of cracked corn, whole oats and wheat) in amounts equal to mash on alternating weeks. If 100lbs of mash was feed this week then 100lbs of scratch would be feed the following week. then repeat. The idea was that if fed only mash the hens reproductive system would mature earlier than the rest of the hen resulting in smaller eggs. By feeding scratch on alternating weeks the growth of the reproductive system would be slowed and wouldn't be ready to make eggs until the hen was also physically ready.

    Is this applicable today? Face value it makes sense and sounds logical but is it?


  2. Pork Pie

    Pork Pie Flockwit

    Jan 30, 2015
    I'm not sure how a nutritionally balanced feed could lead to an imbalance in the rates of maturity of different organs - doesn't sound logical to me. I'd imagine that egg size is more down to selective breeding. As far as I am aware, commercial egg producers do not apply the feed regime described, so the merits in today's world, at least may be questionable.
    KikisGirls likes this.
  3. Fairview01

    Fairview01 Songster

    Jan 26, 2017
    Dallas, TX
    The best documented example I can come up with off the top is us, people. With improved diets female children are reaching sexual maturity and birthing children way before their bodies are mature enough for it as opposed to female children in the early 20th century all because of a better nutritionally balanced diet. Granted there's a big difference between mammals and non mammals but as I said it's the only example I could come up with.

    I agree in the commercial setting a lot has to do with selective breeding and genetics. The birds that mahard uses for egg production are not available to us from the hatchery. Backyarders have different goals than mahard has. Everything mahard does is based on price point.

    I found this interesting that there may be a correlation between slightly slower growth and higher quality eggs for the backyarder since this publication was created during a time when commercial egg production as we know it today virtually didn't exist. Commercial egg production was still done on the family farm but in a really big backyard.
  4. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Crossing the Road

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    A couple keys here are firstly, this is "about some ancient USDA poultry management practices". Poultry nutrition research has been exhaustive since circa 1900 and is ongoing.
    Today, commercial egg farms use blackout housing to control perceived daylength thereby dictating the timing of sexual maturity. You're right in that early onset of lay produces smaller eggs. Hatching from pullet eggs will cause offspring to lay smaller eggs. Nutrition isn't the way to control that.
    There isn't a great deal of difference in the effect of nutrition on mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, etc.. If an animal has optimal nutrition, their bodies will operate the way they were intended. Poor nutrition will cause nutritional deficiency health effects.

    With human "improved diets female children are reaching sexual maturity and birthing children way before their bodies are mature enough for it as opposed to female children in the early 20th century all because of a better nutritionally balanced diet."
    I don't believe that statement to be true. It has nothing to do with improved nutrition.
    First of all, human nutrition in the US has diminished in the last hundred years.
    Unless you think increased consumption of artificial sweeteners, sugars, fats, sodium, artificial flavor, artificial color, preservatives are more nutritious than the home cooked meals based on real vegetables, fruits, meats, fish and fowl that was a good diet during earlier times of plenty (depression eras notwithstanding).
    Just because the FDA says those artificial ingredients are safe, doesn't make it so or improved nutrition. We didn't use red dye #4 in foods in 1900.
    Female human children are not reaching earlier sexual maturity because of better nutrition. One of the main reasons they are reaching premature sexual maturity is because of growth hormones getting into their food from modern farming practices. That is primarily from dairy.
    Since the 1950s, the FDA has approved both natural and synthetic forms of steroid hormone drugs for use in dairy/beef cattle and sheep, including natural estrogen, progesterone, testosterone.
    There are 6 anabolic steroids given to nearly all beef cattle entering feedlots in the US and Canada.
    The fetus and the prepubertal child are particularly sensitive to exposure to sex steroids."
    Leopards in a pristine rainforest have a plethora of prey animals available providing optimal nutrition. This has been the case for millions of years. They have reached sexual maturity at the same rate all this time. There are no growth hormones in those prey animals. The rate of sexual maturity would actually drop if the availability of prey were diminished.
    Red jungle fowl, whether in the Himalayan foothills or in a forage rich environment in an Indonesian jungle don't change timing of sexual maturity based on availability of forage.
    Chickens live for about 10 years. They are sexually mature more or less at about 5 months. That doesn't change unless they are in an environment of increasing day length or decreasing day length. Hormones aren't used in poultry so that is out of the equation.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
  5. Purina

    Purina Songster

    Nov 11, 2014
    Interesting article, Fairview01! As some others on this thread have suggested, scratch feed alone doesn’t support the complete nutrition profile your birds need. It is very deficient in protein and has no fortification with vitamins or minerals. Be sure that you are feeding a complete diet to your birds. Their diet should include all of the vitamins and minerals that the chickens need. Calcium is a key nutrient in egg shell strength, but it is not the only nutrient necessary for strong shells. Vitamin D, phosphorus, and manganese are also very important. If any of those are not meeting the bird’s requirement, then shell quality of eggs and the health of your birds will suffer. Many of the other trace minerals also have an important role, which is why it is important to include vitamins and minerals in your hen’s diet.

    For more information on choosing a complete feed based on life stage for optimal growth and egg production, check out this article.
  6. Fairview01

    Fairview01 Songster

    Jan 26, 2017
    Dallas, TX
    So what about throttling down the growth rate a bit with the scratch. I'm taking for us backyarders and not commercial egg houses like Mahard here in tx. Unlike Mahard for me its not a life and death situation weather they lay on the 18th week or 2 weeks later. Overall will a slightly slower growth rate produce a stronger longer productive bird with higher quality eggs right from the git go.

    Also I feed a custom mixed scratch. Equal parts of corn chops, rolled oats and wheat. Much higher quality than commercial scratch that seems to be 98% millet.

  7. DrPatrickBiggs

    DrPatrickBiggs Chirping

    Aug 20, 2015

    This is a great question, and I want to answer it as completely as I can. This is going to be a rather lengthy response, but I hope that you find it interesting enough to stay with it.

    I’m not sure how old this USDA poultry management practice is, but here is what I am going to say about old research…at the time of this research, this may have been a good option considering how the birds were fed and managed along with the genetics of those birds. Research like this is a great foundation to build off of. As time goes by, the ingredients being fed to animals changes. The way we manage the birds changes. The way we feed the bird changes. The genetics of the animal changes. Overtime, researchers in all of these areas have improved the way the crops are grown, harvested and processed to get to your animal to make sure that the best nutrition of those ingredients is still there. A tremendous amount of research goes into understanding the nutrient requirements of the animals at various stages of growth and development. Vitamins are discovered. The importance of various minerals are understood. We evaluate the amount of each vitamin and mineral to understand what inclusion rate is needed to support proper growth, development and health of the animal. We understand the role that amino acids (building blocks of protein) play, and what the right amounts of each and what ratios of each will drive your bird to grow at the appropriate rate. When this research was started, I am sure the birds were not being raised as intensively as they are now, so their nutrient requirements were different then. As we brought birds into buildings in which we could control their environment, we discovered new ways to manage them in a way that they could grow faster or develop at the proper rate to ensure a productive life. As management changes, so to does the nutrient requirements of the birds. At the same time, geneticists have been working to select the best performing animals to become breeding stock in order to pass on their genes to future generations. For example, in the early 1900’s, it would take about 112 days to get a broiler chicken to market weight. Today, we can do it in 35-42 days. There are lots of components that allow us to make such a huge improvement on the performance of those animals.

    I understand that the backyard farmer isn’t looking for similar results to this, but we can take that understanding of the high performing animal and apply it to your setting. I would not want to “rotate” my diets like that because I feel that you would be feeding a great diet to your birds one week, and then you would be feeding them a “snack food” diet for a week. Would you feed your children a healthy, complete diet one week, and then the next week feed them a diet that consists of candy? Scratch grains are full of calories, not a lot of protein (maybe 12-14% depending on the grains used), and very little vitamins and minerals. We understand what level of each nutrient the animal needs to grow at the proper rate to be ready for egg laying when the time comes. We can do that by feeding them a complete feed for 18 weeks. In a laying chick, it is important that the bird grows at the proper rate so that her skeletal structure develops at the proper rate to enable her to lay eggs without complications. Feeding a scratch diet, is likely to push that bird to deposit fat, which can interfere with her ability to lay eggs. Instead of “stair-stepping” her nutrition – feeding her a complete feed one week followed by a scratch diet the next week and so on – would it not make sense to take the “average” of those two diets and provide that to her over that same 2 week period? This would provide her with the proper levels of vitamins and minerals, which are very important early on in life, along with the protein/amino acids that are necessary for her to grow muscle, bone, reproductive tract, etc.

    Commercial operations are also using light and nutrition to help stimulate the birds to begin to lay eggs. There are many things done at that level that the majority of backyard farmers are never going to attempt for the reason you already mentioned. These birds aren’t your source of income; they are part of your family. It is not uncommon for a commercial producer to feed up to 5 or 6 diets to their developing pullets during those first 18 weeks of life to prepare her for a life of egg laying at the highest level. At Purina, we have developed Purina Start & Grow as a diet that will provide your developing layers to grow at the necessary rate so that their body is prepared for egg laying around 18 weeks of age. I feel that providing your hen with the necessary nutrition everyday of her life will provide you with a hen that will have the opportunity to produce high quality eggs for the duration of her egg-laying life. Don’t forget that nutrition is just a small part of what is needed to have a hen that will produce high-quality eggs over a long period of time. As the flock owner, your role may play an even bigger part by providing her with an environment that is safe and healthy and allows her to thrive and be successful throughout her life.
    KikisGirls likes this.
  8. Fairview01

    Fairview01 Songster

    Jan 26, 2017
    Dallas, TX
    As long as you don't ask me to give up my Big Chief Tablet and #2 lead, I can go with that. It's logical. There's been a lot of advancement not just in diet but in management practices, animal husbandry, etc, etc.

    My concern was if we were lifting a commercial program based on price point and applying it to an environment that wasn't applicable to an absurdly different environment with completely different goals.

    I agree, alternating diets so drastically on a weekly basis seemed to be contradictory to the desired goal of a laying flock. Feeding both everyday and obtaining a consistent stress free diet seemed correct.

    I feed scratch for 3 reasons. I can purchase 28% protein game feed for 60 cents more per 50 lbs sack than 22%. I can purchase 150 pounds of scratch consisting of 50lbs each of corn chops, rolled oats and wheat for roughly $3.00 more than a sack of game feed. As my birds mature I feed a tad more each week to lower the protein levels. The second reason I feed scratch is for digestive health. The gizzard is the first major digestive organ. A week gizzard I think decreases feed conversion. No proof of that, just my opinion. Lastly I make them work for their scratch. I throw it in grass and taller weeds. This increases activity, eliminates boredom and eliminated any aggressive pecking.
    I like your response. It makes sense. You identified a lot of wild card considerations I hadn't.

    As a sidebar I'm gonna guess if you have children you have no more than 2. My wife and I had four. Round about the third one the attitude changes. If they wanted ice cream for breakfast it just wssntba bowl, it was likely the entire container was slung out on the breakfast table at 630am.

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