feeding a flock of 160 layers... questions

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by AmyLM, Mar 16, 2015.

  1. AmyLM

    AmyLM Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Due to economic reasons we are having to make some changes to how we feed our flock. Previously we fed only Purina layena omega 3. The cost over the winter was horrible. Nearly put us out of business completely. We were paying $17 a bag @ 10 bags a week plus 5 of scratch at $12 a bag. Needless to say... ouch. We recently found a supplier for whole grains (not certified but it is organic). 40 lb bags of barley or oats or wheat for $10 a bag.... and free delivery if he's already making a delivery our way to a nearby dairy. The birds LOVE the new grains and we are also working to build a fodder growing system to grow the grains over the winters. We will continue to feed a percentage of their diet from pellet but what I don't know is what percentage of each should they get?

    They are grass/field fed daily. They are decided into two flocks and each flock has about 2 acres of pasture to roam. We rotate pastures about twice a month depending on the time of year. I don't have any caged birds at all.

    What percentage of each feed should they be getting and how much of each now that the spring grasses are starting to come in?
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    A few things stand out to me. First of all, if I had 160 layers and wanted to save money on feed, I'd look into contracting with a local feed mill to formulate a ration in bulk and buy it by the ton. That will save the most money. You can install a small silo that will hold a couple tons.

    A 2:1 ratio feeding 16% protein layer to 10% protein scratch will yield you 14% total crude protein. That's way too low for maintenance let alone good production. The dilution is also with vegetable protein so the limiting amino acids of methionine and lysine will cause problems, not to mention lowering essential vitamins and minerals.
    If you read the label on the layena, it will have a statement to the effect "this is a complete feed, no other supplements are needed." That means, all that scratch is doing some harm.

    The direction you're heading will yield poor results since grains and fodder are missing essential nutrients. Of course the chickens are loving the grain. Kids like ice cream but they need more in their diet than that.

    Purina is a reputable company but you could probably have found less expensive yet nutritionally complete feeds.
    You could probably even buy another bagged feed by the pallet load for about what you're spending on scratch grains and giving them all the nutrients they need to be productive.

    Since it has been winter, they probably didn't find a lot to supplement their needs.

    How has production been? If you're in the egg business, trying to lower cost at the expense of less than ideal nutrition isn't going to benefit you or the chickens in the long run.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2015
  3. AmyLM

    AmyLM Chillin' With My Peeps

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    With our older flock we did use a cheaper "complete" feed but the results were horrible. Flat out. The younger flock is laying great but we have to cut down the feed costs. We aren't in the Midwest. We are in an area that's surrounded by huge cities. There aren't options like you have there. We are lucky to have found a grain supplier at all. The Purina is just too expensive. We aren't breaking even.

    Also my husband wanted me to add a silo is not feasible for 160 birds. If we had 1600 birds maybe but for 160 no way. It would take years to pay off and he laughed at the custom made feed as we are lucky to even have a feed store here let alone someplace that makes custom feeds. The cost to ship it here would also be extremely high.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2015
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Agrees that 14% protein is not going to give optimal egg production.

    How old are your birds right now?
    Did you use supplemental lighting over the winter?
    How many eggs do you get a day?
    How much do you sell a dozen eggs for?
    Are you trying to cover the cost of your facilities with egg sales?

    Wonders how long you've been doing this and have you ever broke even...I think you need hundreds of birds to make go at a profit.
     
  5. AmyLM

    AmyLM Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Been doing this for just shy of 4 years. Yes we broke even rather well in Texas but here in Washington the feed cost is a lot higher. We aren't even going to think about all of the costs of building the coops and runs because they will take many years to pay off. We are only looking at feed and bedding. Our birds are 1 year 2 months (flock 1) and flock 2 that just started laying are all under a year. We are getting between 40 and 50 dozen a week and sell eggs for $4 a dozen for eating eggs and $10 for fertile hatching eggs. We have to cut down our feed costs. The birds aren't sitting around in cages. They have all day field access and they get produce as well. Oh and our younger flock (approx 100 birds) didn't lay over the winter as they were too young. The older flock of approx 60 laid between 10 dozen (the worst week) and 25 dozen a week. And yes they had supplemental light.

    This coming winter we will be doing a fodder system which we didn't have this winter. My husband is working on getting the equipment now (expert bargain hunter).
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2015
  6. MamaRudey

    MamaRudey Chillin' With My Peeps

    Amy, not sure what part of WA you are in but have you looked into Xcel feeds? We have had good results with there feeds and they are reasonably priced.
     
  7. AmyLM

    AmyLM Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Im near Enumclaw. Where is xcel? All we have here is dels and we had lots of problems with our older flock. They were really late to start laying and looked pretty rough. Switched to purina layena omega 3 and they started laying finally. But that food is so expensive.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
  8. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Do your homework with a fodder system. The results you see posted are difficult to understand. First, you need to understand that to analyse feed, it must be in the dry form. This is referred to as dry matter (DM). All the water has been removed and all you are left with is protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamin and minerals. The values they post are for DM and not as fed making the product look more valuable than it is. Fodder however is about 85% water. 85% of what you are feeding has no calories, no nutritive value, no calories. It's just plain old water. Let's look at it as you would prepare and feed it. Typically, you would take 2# of seeds, soak and rinse and let them develop over a 5-7 day period. They sprout and you end up with a typical #13 biscuit (what they are calling a 2' tray). Simple math. If 85% of that biscuit is water that equates to 11# (13 x ,85 = 11). Add back the #2 of seeds that you originally started with and you magically end up with #13. What did you gain? Don't you think if you could in fact take #2 of product and end up with #13 of equally nutrient dense feed in 7 days, that the entire planet would be doing it? There would be no such thing as world famine.

    The next thing to look at is just how much feed you are currently going through. Right now you are feeding #750 of mixed feed a week or #4.7 per hen. That's about double what you "should" be feeding. My chickens are out everyday sunup to dusk and 24 mostly DP hens are going through one #50 a week or #2 each. My average temps as 45/30 and consumption can double with extended periods below freezing. I would also assume since you are in the egg business, all your birds are smaller bodied layers with good feed efficiency. Where are you loosing feed? Birds, mice, weather, dogs...? You like the Purina product and have seen good results with it. Are you buying it by the pallet? You should be saving $1 a bag that way. Have you reached out to your Purina feed rep to see what they can do for you? Buying bulk is really the only way to go. A bulk feed bin that will hold 2 ton (a 5 week supply for you) is not that expensive ($1000-1600) and just to eliminate the never ending pile of empty feed bags and trash is a blessing. How much are you paying for trash hauling? That's another part of the feed cost. This is all you are looking for.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/ValCo-2-9-Ton-Bulk-Feed-Storage-Bin-/231182625752

    When you buy feed in bulk, you either pick it up in a #1000-2000 tote. (mills have different minimums) or the mill will come out and auger it into the bin. If you do it yourself, you will need a small tractor with a bucket that will allow you to pick up the tote and empty it into the bin.

    A few things I would do to reduce feed reliance is to start a mega compost pile. Each pasture should have a minimum of a 10x100 compost pile. Contact a local landscape company and offer a place for them to dump clean yard waste. You could probably even charge them $10 a load and it would be cheaper than taking it to the dump. Next find a craft brewery in town that needs to get rid of spent grains. You should be able to pick up a pickup load for free. That would help jumpstart the compost pile as well as provide a good protein source. Find a manure removal company and let them dump their poop in your pile. You don't want excess shavings or hay. Add your own chicken waste. Keep them off of it until winter when the pasture is limited. The chickens will get in there and work the pile reducing it to almost nothing by spring. Scrape up what's left, spread it on the pastures and start over. Are you best buds with the produce manager at your grocery store? Not uncommon for them to throw out cases of produce every day (trimmings, spoilage). Feed some of it but the older ickier stuff, add to the compost pile. Try your hand at mealworms too. To add some green to their winter diet, buy some high quality dairy alfalfa. You want fine stems and a lot of leaves. It's a good protein and Ca source. It will keep the yolks orange and provide hours of entertainment for the hens.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
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  9. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    I found a mill not that far away from you.

    Wilcox Farm Feed Mill



    405 McNaught Rd S
    Roy, WA 98580

    Feed mills are virtually everywhere.
    I live in a very large metropolitan area but mills ring the area.

    As you travel, look for something that looks like this on the horizon.
    [​IMG]

    This guy sells by the ton bagged or bulk and will deliver.


    M and E Seed and Grain Co., Inc.
    www.mandeseedandgrain.com or http://www.mandeseedandgrain.com/
    500 7th Street
    Prosser, WA 98930

    He sells layer for 15.60 a bag. I'll bet much cheaper by the ton.


    ETA
    The bottom line is IMHO, one can't make money in a chicken endeavor buying a premium feed by the bag. The economy of scale works against you.
    Also, whether doing egg, meat or breeders, cutting corners nutritionally won't be worth it in the long run.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
  10. MamaRudey

    MamaRudey Chillin' With My Peeps

    Xcel is located in Tacoma, WA but if you call them they can give you local stores that carry there product.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015

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