2011 Annual Report for LS10-226
Integrating Free Range Poultry with Ruminant and Agroforestry Production in a Systems Approach
When free-range poultry are raised in extensive systems, they are generally integrated into ruminant production or other farm activities. Farmers often include poultry with other livestock for their commensalistic or even mutualistic associations such as parasite control. Alternative controls for parasites are needed for natural and organic livestock on pasture. Sericea lespedeza has been shown to have anti-parasital properties with small ruminants and research is needed on its impact on poultry. As part of this project, when sericea lespedeza was included at more than 5% of the diet, the weight gain of individual birds was lower, but it was found to be palatable to poultry because feed intake did not differ among levels of inclusion up to 20%. In addition, when poultry are raised in extensive systems, forage resources offer a significant source of nutrients; however, in order to take advantage of forage resources, alternative feeding systems may be needed instead of the typical fully-formulated diet. Choice feeding is an alternative feeding system that uses a high protein concentrate and a grain (mash and grain) to allow birds to more precisely meet their nutrient requirements and use on-farm feeds. In this study, choice feeding of organic meat chickens resulted in lower weight gain but improved feed efficiency. When cattle or small ruminant producers add poultry to their operations, fine-tuning of many details is needed; in particular temperature extremes in small portable poultry houses require special attention.
1. Determine impact of integrating poultry with ruminant grazing on animal and poultry performance
2. Determine impact of grazing poultry on high-protein forage and forage with condensed tannins on performance and parasite control
3. Determine impact of grazing poultry under shelter/shade/roosts and feeding tree fodder for agroforestry systems
4. Determine the nutrient content of poultry products due to integrating poultry with livestock production and agroforestry
5. Conduct on-farm verification trials to determine the impact of practices developed
Our team has an electronic workspace where we can share text, files, photos, etc. The workspace includes a web conference tool with audio and video capability, as well as a console to share powerpoints, a whiteboard for design, desktop sharing, etc. Project participants use web cameras and headsets with integrated microphones for good audio quality. We have organized our objectives and tasks on the website and hold bi-annual web conferences. The workspace is under ASULearn and requires a guest account with Appalachian State University to access. In reality, project participants seem to prefer using a guest link to the web conference rather than using their guest accounts.
Objective 1. Determine impact of integrating poultry with ruminant grazing on animal and poultry performance
Fayoumi and Hamburg pullets were raised to 19 weeks (July 2011) at the Poultry Production and Product Safety Research Unit (PPPSRU) in Fayetteville, AR for the Dale Bumpers Small Farm Research Center in Booneville, Arkansas. Fayoumi were selected due to their heat tolerance. The birds were placed in 3 x 8 ft “pastured poultry pens,” pens with a small hut (3 x 3 ft) with an attached run. The run was floorless so birds could access pasture. The birds (n = 10 per hut; n = 2 huts per pasture) were placed in a one acre pasture with weaned lambs (n = 10/pasture), and there were two pasture replicates with birds (and two without). The pens were moved daily to fresh pasture. Feed was provided in the hut area, while water and grit were provided in the run. Due to extreme heat and drought, the layers and lambs were kept on the pasture for one week and then were removed for welfare reasons.
In order to determine the impact of integrating poultry with goats and cattle, the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture brooded Dominique and Golden Laced Wyandotte chicks to raise in portable houses for layers. The houses were 7 x 3 ft hoophouses. Unfortunately due to high heat and other issues, the birds did not work out as layers. Specifically, they found acceptance of the portable houses by the birds to be an obstacle because the birds were older (18-week-old pullets) and therefore less adaptable to new housing. Kerr Center has started a new batch of birds. Kerr Center has also observed that mob-grazed cattle are often moved so frequently (even daily) that it may become a burden to move a pastured layer operation as frequently. Free-range systems generally include a small portable house and portable electronet fencing and follow the cattle rotation.
Objective 2. Determine impact of grazing poultry on high-protein forage and forage with condensed tannins on performance and parasite control
Research was conducted at the PPPSRU in Fayetteville to determine the palatability of sericea lespedeza to poultry. An abstract was submitted to the Southern Poultry Science Society, January 23-24, 2012; the abstract was accepted and a poster was developed. A manuscript was submitted to Journal of Applied Poultry Research this year.
Abstract: As parasites become resistant to available anthelmintics, new methods of control are needed. New drugs take a long time to develop in addition to being expensive; therefore, there is increasing interest in finding and using natural alternatives. Additionally, natural remedies are needed for the organic sector as synthetic drugs are not allowed and birds with outdoor access are likely to encounter parasites. Sericea lespedeza [SL, Lespedeza cuneata (Dum. Cours.) G. Don.] is a common perennial legume found in pastures across the southern USA that has been shown to be effective at controlling parasitic nematodes in small ruminants due to its condensed tannins content. Diets high in condensed tannins are often unpalatable to poultry; however, growers report that chickens maintained on pastures will consume SL. These reports and the level of consumption have not been verified. Therefore, before determining its potential in controlling parasites in poultry, a preliminary study confirmed that birds on pasture consumed SL (92% of birds examined had SL in crops), and in a subsequent study, dried SL leaves were added to a commercial broiler feed to determine the palatability of SL at various concentrations. Diets included 0% (Control), 5% (SL5), 10% (SL10) or 20% (SL20) SL (dry matter weight), and fed from hatch until harvest at six weeks of age. Male broilers (n=80) were randomly divided into eight groups and fed one of the four diets in replicate. Weight gains were similar between Control and SL at 5%. Including more than 5% SL in the diet reduced individual body weight (P<0.05). At the end of the feeding period, the digestive organs as a percent of body weight of SL20 birds were larger than Control birds. Feed conversion was higher in SL20 (2.31) than in Control (1.63; P < 0.05). Palatability of SL did not appear to be a problem as all treatment groups consumed a similar amount of feed. Therefore follow-up studies will evaluate the effects of SL on parasite control.
Objective 3. Determine impact of grazing poultry under shelter/shade/roosts and feeding tree fodder for agroforestry systems
A poster was developed on research that examined the use of simulated agroforestry structure on the performance and behavior of organic meat chickens (see 2011 Annual Report) and was presented at the 30th Poultry Science Symposium on Alternative Systems for Poultry – Health, Welfare and Productivity which took place at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK from 7 – 9 September 2011. The abstract will be published by the World Poultry Science Association.
At the USDA Organic Poultry Research Facility, half of the poultry yards were planted with a native woody perennial, beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), in order to gather preliminary data contrasting the use of woody perennials to constructions that simulate agroforestry.
In agroforestry systems, woody perennials such as shrubs and trees can not only be used for shade/shelter/roosts but also represent a feed resource in terms of berries, fruit, nuts, green leaf. When trying to maximize the use of on-farm feeds from woody perennials, it is important to look at the use of alternative feeding methods. We presented on choice feeding for organic meat chickens at the Poultry Science Association annual meeting held July 18-20 in St. Louis, MO (below).
Abstract: Choice feeding, using a high-protein feed with mineral and vitamin supplements provided separately from a grain feed, may allow birds raised in relatively open housing with largely uncontrolled environmental conditions to more precisely meet their nutritional requirements by self-selection compared to a fully-formulated diet. Choice feeding may also allow producers to use feed grains produced on their own farms in order to reduce transportation and milling. A study was conducted to determine the impact of choice feeding on performance in organic meat chickens. Pens of medium-growing chickens (20 birds per pen) were randomly assigned to one of two treatments: fully formulated diet (FF) or choice (C) diet. There were 4 replications of these treatments. Birds were raised in floor pens in a naturally ventilated house; popholes provided access to grassy yards during the day. During the starter period (0-27 d), the C treatment received formulated feed as well as high-protein feed and grain, but during the grower/finisher period (28-64 d), only high-protein feed and grain. Birds were commercially processed at 64 days. The organic formulated diet had 21% CP, while the choice diet selected by birds from 28-34 d had 13.2% CP and the choice diet at 57-64 d was 12% CP. Performance data were subjected to a t-test. There was no difference between treatments in terms of weight gain during the grower/finisher period, but overall weight gain was higher for FF birds (P<0.05). However, feed intake was higher and feed efficiency was inferior for FF birds compared to C (P<0.05). Although carcass weights and breast fillet weights were heavier in FF birds, there was no difference in yields (carcass, breast, wing, or leg) between treatments (P>0.05). The Choice diet was less expensive than the Fully Formulated diet ($0.58/kg based on the diet selected the last week of production vs. $0.66/kg). These data indicate that while FF birds gained more weight than C, feed efficiency was poor and the opportunity for organic chickens to self-select feeds may be more efficient and save costs.
Objective 4: Determine the nutrient content of poultry products due to integrating poultry with livestock production and agroforestry
We found no difference in incidence of Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter spp. in the cecal content of birds fed the various levels of sericea lespedeza (no birds tested positive for Salmonella spp.). Meat samples from pastured broilers have been collected and are being analyzed and new studies are underway. We will compare nutrients and food borne pathogens in eggs from integrated systems.
Objective 5 Conduct on-farm verification trials to determine the impact of practices developed
In the last year, Little Portion has stopped raising meat chickens and turkeys and focuses on layers. Although they were one of the largest pastured poultry producers in the country (at 15,000 pastured broilers per year), they are no longer raise broilers because their processor stopped processing chickens. They are finishing a facility to process eggs, store pork, and other further processing. They intend to grow to 3,000 layers on pasture and in the forest. They have added hogs because of market opportunities and the ability to use the woods for growing them. They plan on running pigs in the woods, follow with layers, and broadcast seed that will grow (i.e. – bromegrass). They will also pass some hogs through the pasture ahead of the layers. They have one plot of ground they’ve allowed the hogs to turn on which they will plant popcorn and pumpkins. They are planning a winter house for the hogs and more winter housing for layers. They sell processed pork to restaurants, retailers, distributors, bed and breakfast houses and individuals. The eggs all go to former broiler customers. Eggs and pork fit Little Portion’s labor supply well.
The laying flock is still problematic and birds were lost from flying out of electric net around poultry. Edwards has had trouble maintaining the voltage on her electric net fence at the recommended 5,000 volts with her solar charger/battery unit, but in any case, is concerned about use of electric net fence since her layer operation is used very close to her house where her young children play.
In the next year, we will work with producers to develop enterprise budgets based on integrated systems.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The heat in the summer of 2011 was problematic for our research in Objective 1, which continues to reflect some of the problems in our integrated poultry systems research.
According to Burke at DNSFRC, anecdoctal reports from small producers indicate that poultry do not eat or break up small ruminant manure pellets sufficiently to destroy harbor for internal parasites, even when the ruminants are grain-fed. According to Kerr Center, internal parasites in cattle are not as severe as in small ruminants, especially in their Pineywoods cattle which have some resistance to parasitism. However, poultry could be useful in helping to control external parasites in cattle.
When cattle and small ruminant producers add free-range poultry to their grazing systems, fine-tuning of practices may be needed. Because production systems vary significantly, we have identified the following rules of thumb that NCAT will summarize:
• Provide at least 1.5ft2/bird of indoor area.
• Provide at least 5 ft2/bird of outdoor area.
• If layers fly out of the outdoor area, additional space may be needed (up to 50 ft2/bird); rotating the bird to fresh paddocks can also help
• Keeping a voltage of at least 5,000 V on electronet fencing is generally required to deter predators; a solar charger/battery unit is capable of doing this but a back-up charger may be needed for extended periods of cloudy weather
• When birds are kept on family farms with small children, electric fencing is often a concern for families
• Birds may require training when moved from fixed housing to portable housing in the field. Birds are often raised in fixed housing during brooding or kept in fixed housing for over wintering. Birds may need to be locked in the new house for a day or two to become accustomed to it.
• Ideally, birds are provided outdoor access as soon as possible in order to learn appropriate behaviors such as foraging, directed pecking, jumping onto perches, etc. Innovative brooding systems, such as portable systems on pasture using heat lamps or insulated hovers, can allow chicks and poults even several days old access to pasture.
• Poultry housing that is integrated with grazing animals should generally be highly mobile. However, when birds are placed in remote fields with cattle, it becomes more difficult to service the birds (i.e. provide water, open popholes in the morning and close them at night). However, if a producer is participating in a welfare assurance program for poultry, they will need to observe the birds at least twice per day. It is important for birds to go inside the house at night due to predation. Even if an electric fence or electronet is used for protection, aerial predators (owls) are a major concern. During hot weather, it is important to provide good ventilation in the house at night since all the birds will be in the house at the same time.
• Dogs are also integrated into many livestock systems for guarding and herding. Guardian dogs play a particularly important role in protecting poultry on pasture from predators.
• To extend the grazing season for pastured poultry, use a combination of warm and cool season forages. Although stockpiled forage is important for ruminants, it is generally too high in fiber for poultry. Solar lighting systems can help provide supplemental light during short winter days and spread egg production more evenly throughout the year.
• Although integrating multispecies is key, if possible avoid keeping turkeys and chickens on the same farm due to blackhead; if a producer decides to proceed with the practice, turkeys should not be in the same area as chickens for 3 years; see ATTRA publication Parasite Management for Natural and Organic Poultry: Blackhead in Turkeys
Pastured Poultry Panel, Independent Small Animal Meat Processors Association, November 6, 2010, Marion, NC
“Pastured Poultry Nutrition” and “Matching Poultry Genetics to Production System,” Organic Growers School, March 5-6, 2011, Asheville, NC.
Poultry Science Association Annual Meeting in St. Louis, MO, July 18-20, 2010, “Choice Feeding of Organic Meat Chickens.”
“Effect of Simulated Agroforestry Structures on Performance and Behavior of Organic Meat Chickens” 30th Poultry Science Symposium on Alternative Systems for Poultry – Health, Welfare and Productivity, University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK from 7 – 9 September 7-9, 2011
“Pasture-Based Meat Bird Production,” Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Annual Conference, Durham, NC, November 12, 2011.
Fanatico, A.C., V. B. Brewer, C. M. Owens, and A. M. Donoghue. 2011. Choice feeding of organic meat chickens. Poultry Science. (abstract)
Fanatico, A.C., J.A. Mench, G.S. Archer, Y. Liang, V. B. Brewer, Owens, C.M., and A. M. Donoghue. 2011. Effect of Simulated Agroforestry Structures on Performance and Behavior of Organic Meat Chickens. World Poultry Science Association. (abstract)
Donoghue, D.J., Reyes-Herrera, I., Venkitanarayanan, K., Fanatico, A.C., and Donoghue, A.M. 2011. Organic Poultry Production: Developing Natural Solutions to Reducing Pathogens and Maintaining Gut Health. The Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference. Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), Chattanooga, TN. (abstract)
Moyle, J. R., J. M. Burke, A. Fanatico, K. Arsi, I. Reyes-Herrera, D. J. Donoghue, A. Woo-Ming and A. M. Donoghue. 2011. Palatability of Tannin-rich Sericea Lespedeza fed to broilers. Poultry Science (abstract).
Moyle, J. R., J. M. Burke, A. Fanatico, K. Arsi, I. Reyes-Herrera, D. J. Donoghue, A. Woo-Ming and A. M. Donoghue. 2011. Palatability of Tannin-rich Sericea Lespedeza fed to broilers. (Manuscript submitted to Journal of Applied Poultry Research).
- Heat-tolerant Fayoumi raised for integration on pastures at USDA
- Portable layer housing developed at Kerr Center
- Research pens
- Heritage breed Hamburg raised for integration onto pastures
Louisiana State University
Department of Pathobiological Sciences
School of Veterinary Medicine
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Office Phone: 2255789652
USDA Agricultural Research Service
University of Arkansas Center of Excellence for Poultry Science
1260 W. Maple St.
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Office Phone: 4795752391
Research Animal Scientist
USDA Agricultural Research Service
Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center
6883 South State Highway 23
Booneville, AR 72927
Office Phone: 4796753834
Southeast Regional Director
National Center for Appropriate Technology
P.O. box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Office Phone: 4794429842
USDA Agricultural Research Service
University of Arkansas Center of Excellence for Poultry Science
1260 W. Maple St.
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Office Phone: 4795752413
350 County Road 248
Berryville, AR 72616
Office Phone: 4792537710
Sustainable Agriculture Specialist
Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture
P.O. Box 588
Poteau, OK 74953
Office Phone: 9186479123
18689 Lake Sequoyah WC 50
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Office Phone: 4795871731