- Animals: poultry
- Animal Products: eggs
- Animal Production: feed formulation, feed management, feed rations
Economic sustainability is a challenge in pastured and organic poultry production, where feed is
typically the largest cost. Hydration and fermentation of poultry feed show potential to improve
feed efficiency and reduce costs by ten percent or more. The proposed Foothills Farm project in
western Washington will help to bring these savings to farmers throughout the Western SARE
region and beyond, fulfilling the stewardship goal of promoting resource use efficiency. Reduced
feed costs have potential not just to improve economic performance of pastured and free-range
poultry systems but to expand producer access to organic and local feeds, with positive
implications for the entire feed supply chain.
Efficiency gains from hydration and fermentation of poultry feed are documented in scientific
studies and in anecdotal evidence from producer communities. Lacking, however, is robust onfarm
data which quantifies potential savings and clarifies whether feed hydration or fermentation
merit the serious attention of farmers. We propose to carry out a rigorous on-farm feeding trial
using pastured laying hens to compare the performance of (i) dry, (ii) hydrated and (iii)
fermented poultry feed. Trial design will be randomized complete block with three replicates of
ten hens per treatment. Feed consumption, water consumption and egg production will be
measured and used to calculate dry-basis feed consumption and feed efficiency (grams feed per
gram egg) over the course of an entire production season.
In addition to reliable data, farmers need practical, affordable strategies for feed hydration or
fermentation. Our project will demonstrate feed preparation techniques using simple equipment
developed at Foothills Farm, which has five years’ experience of fermenting feed for laying
The Foothills Farm project will reach farmers by developing an online forum, hosting two farm
walks, presenting in-person workshops and producing a factsheet and video.
Project objectives from proposal:
The research component of our project aims to determine the influence on feed conversion ratio
and whole-season productivity in pastured laying hens of feed (1) Hydration; and (2)
Fermentation. By conducting this trial with a rigorous methodology, we expect to be able to
provide robust quantitative data that allows other farmers to calculate the potential economic
value of introducing feed hydration or fermentation to their own production system.