Quantifying the impact of feed hydration and fermentation on poultry nutrition and farm economics

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2018: $19,814.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2020
Grant Recipient: Foothills Farm
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Matt Steinman
Foothill Farms

Information Products


  • Animals: poultry
  • Animal Products: eggs


  • Animal Production: feed formulation, feed management, feed rations


    Feed is the single largest cost in poultry-raising, including in pastured flocks. Small and mid-scale producers, many of whom use higher-priced specialty feeds, need strategies to minimize feed wastage and maximize flock performance. Fermented feed may help to address both these concerns, but there is little information available to help farmers weigh costs against the prospective benefits of fermented feed relative to dry feed for commercial pastured poultry.
    In this project, we carried out a rigorous on-farm feeding trial using pastured laying hens to compare the performance of (i) Dry, (ii) Hydrated and (iii) Fermented poultry feeds. Trial design was a Latin Square design with three replicates of ten hens per treatment. Feed consumption and egg production were measured and used to calculate dry-basis feed consumption and a feed efficiency index (grams feed per marketable egg) at regular intervals between 3 March and 9 October 2019.
    Results show that hens fed with a Fermented diet laid 9% more eggs over the year than hens on a Dry diet, while hens on a Hydrated diet laid 11% fewer eggs. Fermented- and Dry-diet birds consumed similar amounts of feed, resulting in significantly smaller feed per egg values in the Fermented-diet group. Birds on all three diets consistently produced USDA Extra-Large grade eggs. An economic model was assembled from feed consumption and egg production data generated in the experiment, together with labor requirements estimated from Foothills Farm’s experience of providing wet and dry feed to its commercial flock. The model indicated that the Fermented feed system was the most profitable owing to greater egg production, despite extra labor costs.
    Results from this study represent the first quantitative on-farm data relating to feed fermentation for poultry. The Foothills Farm team is preparing a video and a popular press article to share the results of the experiment, as well as a 'How to Ferment Poultry Feed' fact sheet. We are also presenting results at various regional conferences.

    Project objectives:

    Our first objective was to determine the influence on feed efficiency and whole-season productivity in pastured laying hens of feed (1) Hydration; and (2) Fermentation, relative to feeding dry mash. Our second objective was to carry out an economic analysis of different feeding systems using our field data and market data, in order to help other farmers assess the potential value of feed hydration or fermentation in their own production system, given the extra labor requirements.

    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.