Alternative Feeds for Mid- to Large-size Pasture Raised Layer Operations

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2012: $7,203.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Isaac Moody
Moody Farm

Annual Reports


  • Animals: poultry


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Education and Training: demonstration
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns

    Proposal summary:


    The farm is on 205 acres of flat, tillable farm ground in West Central Indiana where corn, soybeans, wheat, spelt, oats, hay, and pasture are raised in a seven year rotation. The crops are for feed and space for layer hens, broiler chickens, stocker cattle, ewe/lamb, and finish cattle operation. Soybeans are the only cash crop.

    Isaac Moody is a 6th generation farmer (fourth on the same ground), raised and home schooled on the farm. He was trained in sustainable farming practices by his Grandfather Dennis Moody over a period of 23 years. He resides on this farm with his wife Karyn and their 2 daughters Ziva and Lydia. Isaac currently owns and operates a 600-bird pasture laying hen operation with plans to expand to 900 birds in the spring of 2012. The eggs from these birds are processed in an inspected facility and marketed to three retail meat shops in the Indianapolis area and Wabash College in Crawfordsville, IN.


    Over the past few years there has been a tremendous increase in consumer demand for authentic, pasture raised eggs. As this demand rises, new larger production models with increased efficiencies will need to be developed to meet this demand.

    With feed cost being the highest cost involved in the production of eggs, alternative feed materials will need to be explored as a way to increase margins. In this market sector great care must be taken to meet the expectations of the consumers especially when it comes to production models, animal environment, and feed and water quality.

    The basis of thought is to demonstrate and quantify a study of alternative feed material over 3- six week studies involving two layer flocks of approximately 300 birds each.

    Group A will be fed an off farm complete commercial feed for the duration of the study.

    Group B will be fed a reduced amount of the same commercial feed with three different feeds factored in.

    1. Distiller’s grains from a local brewery for 6 weeks
    2. Fresh food preparation scrapes from an institution for 6 weeks
    3. An on-farm grind and mix of corn, soybean, spelt, oyster shells for 6 weeks


    My search in the SARE archives was void of such research and though books have been written on backyard pasture poultry operations, the larger scale has not been addressed. This research will involve 600 layers and a 9-acre pasture on one of my farms. The hens will produce over 200 dozen eggs per week which are processed in my facility and marketed to three retail outlets in the Indianapolis area, Wabash College in Crawfordsville, and two restaurants.

    The results will provide farmers with information to formulate feed to their particular operations, and depending on availability of alternative feed components, could greatly reduce feed cost for pasture raised poultry. This would increase the margins for these sustainable farmers and produce an outreach opportunity for them to involve other food businesses in the production of pasture raised eggs.

    In addition, this method will be shown via three customer tours put on by Moody Meats, a part of a program for interns from Purdue University for a sustainable agriculture class, a Sustainable Business Class through Wabash College, and is in process of possibly being a part of the Indiana Soybean Alliance producer tour for summer of 2012.  

    Though the primary considerations of this project are to research less expensive feed sources for the hens, great care will be taken to retain egg taste, yolk appearance, shell integrity as a reduction in any of these will not be acceptable.   The following criteria will be observed between Group A (the controlled group) and Group B (with the variable feeds).

    The information gathered will be recorded and validated in the following areas:

    Hen health- this involves a visual observation of feathers, fecal matter, comb color, flock contentment.

    Egg production: quantity, shell integrity, yolk color, egg weight and size

    Hen preference to feed alternatives

    Handling characteristics of alternative feed, storage, feeding

    Consumer reaction and preference to various feeds

    Cost analysis including mileage, time for procurement, and farm grain production of alternative feeds.


    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.