Profitable broiler operation requires optimal feed intake throughout the growing period. Optimal feed intake, which is considered to have a very significant impact on broiler growth, is dependent on a number of factors such as environmental conditions, diet nutrient density and physical feed quality. To ensure maximum utilization of energy, protein, and other nutrient of the diet, a right proportion of these nutrients are necessary. That also results in optimum growth of the birds and also minimizes of the surplus use of vital dietary components. It is so critical that the bird be given every opportunity to get off to a good start, because the first few days after hatch represent a greater percentage of a broiler’s lifespan than any time during its growth period. The physical form of feed (mash and pellet) is a crucial factor in meat yield of a broiler. Mash is a form of a complete feed that is finely ground and mixed, so that birds cannot easily separate out the ingredients and that each mouthful provides a well-balanced diet. Pellet feeding is a modification of the mash system. It consists of mechanical pressing of the mash into a hard dry pellets or “artificial grains”.
It is generally accepted that, compared to mash, the feeding of pellets improves broiler growth rate with an increased feed intake. Reasons for the enhanced performance may be due to increased digestibility, decreased ingredient segregation, reduced use of energy during prehension, and of course, increased palatability. However, just feeding of pelleted rations is not enough to ensure enhanced performance of poultry. The quality of pellet is also very important for getting the best broiler growth. Crumble is another type of feed prepared at the mill 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 due to its convenience of feeding. Several authors have reported that chicks fed the crumbled starter diet consumed more feed, showed highest weight gain and offered best FCR. While the idea and performance of feeding crumbles to chicks appears highly promising, there is very less research work and field communication reported on this form of compound feed, especially about the quality of crumbles at feeding pans. My own experience of consulting work with the poultry feed pelleting industry has gives me an enormous opportunity to look into the overall quality of pellets being produced in this part of world. In my opinion, crumbled feed is the best for the chicks, but for that, crumbles must be a durable one. Otherwise, they tend to create too much dust that poses performance & disease challenges for young ones.
A study conducted to investigate the relationship between crumble size and early chick performance in broiler farms has shown the dramatic influence of these fines on performance. In this study, the same diet was fed as a coarse crumble (~4mm), a medium crumble (- 4.00 mm to +1.5 mm) and fine crumble (-1.5 mm). Over the entire study there was no difference in the body weight gain between the coarse and medium size crumbles but both outperformed the fine crumbles (777 gm Vs 738). A similar result was noted in feed efficiency (0.750 vs 0.725 F/G). From this study it is obvious that something as simple as crumbles size can dramatically influence early chick performance. As the soft crumbles produced at feed mill level further get damaged by loading, storage, auguring and transferring to feed pans, it seems that the best remedy for this is to increase the hardness of pellets and produce “hard pellets” instead of “soft pellets”. A diet screened to contain 100% pellets, may only contain “soft” pellets that may easily break apart during feeding or even crumbling process. I personally feel and reiterate that measuring the pellet hardness than PDI is a better measure of good pellet quality, and we must look into different manufacturing process available to enhance the better pellet quality/crumbles.