Optimal feed intake throughout growing period results in profitable broiler production. Optimal feed intake depends on various factors like environmental conditions, diet, nutrient density and physical feed quality. In turn, the optimum feed intake has a significant impact on broiler growth. To ensure maximum utilization of energy, protein and other nutrients, a right proportion of these nutrients is necessary, which results in optimum growth in birds. The first few days of growth after hatching represents a greater percentage of a broiler’s lifespan than during the subsequent growth period. Therefore, it is more important that the bird be given every opportunity to get off to a good start. Early feeding always has a major impact on overall development of the bird. Feed intake is also a determining factor in immune development, intestinal development and muscle development. If any of these are not developed properly in early stage of life, in most of the cases the bird will not grow to its full potential. Crumble is a type of feed prepared by pelleting of the mixed ingredients and then crushing the pellet to a consistency coarser than mash. Recently this form of feed has become popular in broiler production during early chick phase, due to its convenience of feeding and better body weight gain during first few days of the life cycle. Several reports also support the fact that chicks fed with crumbled starter diet consume more feed, show highest weight gain and offer better FCR. While the performance of feeding crumbles to chicks appears to be highly promising, there is very less research work and field communication reports available, which could give documented Good quality pellet results in better feed conversion efficiency information about the quality of crumbles at feeding pans. Crumble feed is certainly best for the chicks, but empahsize on the quality of crumbles is equally important and that quality can be measured in the terms of durability of crumbles. Soft crumbles coming out of soft pellets tend to create too much dust that poses multiple disease and developmental challenges, apart from performance issues in young ones.
While few researchers confirm issue of fine ground particles or coarse particles, there is preferential selection by chicks for crumbles than the fines present. The fines in the crumble feed could make the digestion very viscous and severely impact the intestine, which may increase the incidence of gut diseases, apart from resulting in lower feed intake and lower weight gain. Excessive fines in the crumbles during early days of chicks may also tend to result in poor development of gizzard and digestive functions. The gizzard is a muscular organ that reduces the particle size of ingested foods and mixes it with digestive enzymes. The mechanical pressure applied in grinding by the gizzard may exceed 585 kg/cm2. The development of digestive tract of poultry, especially the gizzard, is known to be influenced by crumbles quality, particle size and fines, which is evident in chickens at 7 days of age. Greater gizzard development and lower gizzard pH in 7-day old chicks fed with high quality crumbles compared with those poor quality crumble have been observed and reported. Chicks fed crumbles with high excessive fines may have relatively underdeveloped gizzard, which may functions as a transit rather than a grinding organ. Several researches which compare the feeding efficiency of mash, pellets, and reground pellets, have confirmed that broilers growth response was lost when pellets were reground to mash.
Though Metabolisable Energy (ME) was not affected by pelleting, but the diet fed as intact pellets had approximately 30% more calories of productive energy. It has been observed that result was due to less energy consumption to eat pellets compared to mash. In a feeding trial, chicks fed mash spent about 103 minutes of 12-hour day eating, while with pellets it was only 34 minutes. Research and practical findings on commercial farms has often indicated that farms with good quality pellets were always better than when the feed that was fed as mash or had a high percentage of fines, and ultimately resulting in better feed conversion efficiency.