Modern European broiler feed formulations

Common European broiler feed formulas with wheat, soybean meal, rapeseed meal and fishmeal, without antibiotics

Vadym Terelyuk,

The third set of formulas (BR03) describes the situation in the EU where wheat remains the major cereal, and rapeseed meal is being used increasingly.

It is again highly advisable to review the notes and formulas for the broiler feed formulation sets BR01 and BR02. The first set provides a description of basic nutrition principles, whereas in the second set there is a discussion on how ingredients, nutrients and additives are adjusted when antibiotics — and in the case of U.S., anticoccidials — are removed.

Here, in BR03 notes we will combine all that information and adjust them in the case of the EU.

Current situation in Europe

It is important to understand that in Europe there is a greater degree of variability in terms of operation size, ingredient availability and even nutritional knowledge, not only among the different member states but also among nutritionists graduating from different schools.

In general, however, wheat is the main cereal, although it is not always used alone as some corn is frequently added either from local origin or imported. Soybean meal remains the major protein source, but the EU has a strong program to reduce its dependency on it. This desire, along with the rapid expansion of rapeseed cultivation for bio-diesel fortification, have made rapeseed meal (about 35% crude protein) a relatively less expensive and quite available ingredient.

Finally, coccidiostats are not considered as antibiotics and as such they are (still) allowed for use, unlike bacterial antibiotics that have been banned completely for growth promoting usage and being frowned upon even for therapeutic purposes.

Notes on feed ingredients

The major difference with BR01 and BR02 sets is the replacement of corn by wheat. Wheat has less energy, more protein and more available phosphorus than corn, but otherwise it is similar. It contains more anti-nutritional factors in the name of non-starch polysaccharides (NSP), which are often addressed with a xylanase (enzyme), but this is done only when wheat is the only ingredient and when it is high in NSP.

In the case of rapeseed meal, it should be remembered that EU rapeseed is not exactly the same as canola from Canada as it may contain slightly more anti-nutritional factors. Despite that, the levels of rapeseed meal in BR03 set of formulas are rather daring, having assumed the best quality product has been secured. Even then, a gradual increase is recommended, something reflected in the formulas.

Some nutritionists would have started lower or even excluded it from the starter feed, whereas others might have gone a bit higher. Rapeseed is a super-rich source of choline (more than 6,000 ppm), and this is reflected in the choline chloride additions.

As wheat byproducts abound in EU, wheat middlings (7% crude fiber) have been included as the middle ground between bran (9%) and shorts (5%), although many other combinations exist. In general, however, EU formulas tend to be a bit higher in crude fiber, probably slightly above 3.5% but rarely above 4% to avoid feed depression.

Finally, the use of fishmeal is a traditional practice that gives excellent results when product of the best quality is used. As such, the herring meal of 70% crude protein, even though it is expensive and hard to find, is prized for the starter feed, and may be used even in the grower feed in a lower level — just as shown in BR03 formulas. In the past, adding 10% fish meal in broiler starters was considered a must. Now, it is either omitted when cost prevails, or replaced by refined vegetable proteins of lesser cost, or even by yeast/bacterial biomass byproducts.

Nevertheless, many nutritionists still consider a good fish meal an essential ingredient for a well-designed broiler nutrition program, even if it has to be included at such levels as 1-2%.

All other comments in BR02 apply here, with the exception of the presence of coccidiostat, which as has been mentioned, it is still allowed in the EU.

Notes on nutrients

Again, we kept the same conservative numbers on energy (3,000, 3,050 and 3,100 kcal/kg AMEn for the starter, grower, finisher, respectively) and the same lower levels for crude protein (20, 19, 18) as in BR02 for the same reasons. The same adjustments to all amino acids and minerals were made, but we opted to add a small amount of choline chloride as the bioavailability in EU rapeseed meal is not clear enough. Perhaps, this is overly cautious, but such needs to be the case when we are faced with novel challenges.

It must be remarked that, in the EU, sodium levels are quite low — as low as 0.15, something that is slightly below the minimum requirement. This might be justified for areas with saline water, but it is mostly done to reduce water leakage in the gut, and wet litter issues. It is better to address these issues with specific additives and proper house management rather than deprive birds from an essential nutrient. As such, the level of sodium in BR03 formulas is the proper one for adequate nutrition.

Again, the levels of dEB are rather low reflected by the low potassium and high clorine levels due to the presence of rapeseed meal. Many would consider the level of potassium marginal and would add a source of this mineral, but again this is refined nutrition.

Notes on feeding

The same notes as those included under BR01 are applicable here, too. The use of a super pre-starter is even strongly advocated when antibiotics and anticoccidials are not used, but cost is often prohibitive, although results are invariably in favor of improved animal performance and reduced mortality and morbidity.

Notes on additives

In the EU, more additives are used than can be described. Although these formulas would benefit from phytase additions, from a cost point, and perhaps from a xylanase addition, from a nutritional point, many other options exist. As mycotoxins are often a problem, there is a great market for them, and the same case can be made for myriad other products. Again, the main replacement for antibiotics remains a blend of organic acids along with a secondary additive and some extra fiber, that now even exists as an additive.

Related content

Broiler feed formulations in the series and related analysis:


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