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

    Proposal summary:

    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.

    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.