Archive for September 22nd, 2020

Three Tips To Help Molting Chickens

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Molting Chicken Tips from J&N Feed and Seed in Graham, Texas.It’s autumn. Time for comfy sweaters, pumpkin-flavored everything, and… vacation? For backyard chickens across the country, shorter days often signal time for a break. Birds may stop laying eggs, lose old feathers, and grow new ones. This annual vacation from egg laying is called molt.

Molt is driven by season and usually occurs in the fall when the hours of sunlight decrease. For our birds, fall means it’s time to prepare for winter, which requires quality feathers. That’s why hens take a vacation from laying eggs and redirect their energy to regrowing feathers.

 When do chickens molt?

This feather loss phenomenon first happens when birds are approximately 18 months old and then occurs annually. Backyard flock owners should expect about 8 weeks of feather loss and regrowth but could take up to 16 weeks for some birds.

Though the general process is similar, not all molting seasons are created equal.

The onset and length of the molt look different for each bird. How long chickens molt for depends on factors such as age, consumed nutrients, and the environment. You’ll often first notice that feathers are losing their sheen. Hens may then gradually lose a few feathers or it could happen overnight. We’ve noticed that more productive egg-layers and younger hens recover from molt more quickly than older or less productive hens. In any case, proper nutrients and management can help birds through molt.

Three tips for molting chickens

  1. Pack the protein Just like humans, birds need a different diet depending on their current activity or life stage. Protein is the key nutrient to pack in a flock’s diet during molt. The number one nutrient switches from calcium to protein during molt. This is because feathers are made of 80-85 percent protein, whereas eggshells are primarily calcium. When you notice your chickens losing feathers, switch to a complete feed that’s 20 percent protein and includes probiotics, prebiotics, and key vitamins and minerals. Purina® Flock Raiser® chicken feed is a key option. A high-protein complete feed can help hens channel nutrients into feather regrowth and get back to laying eggs.For organic flocks, try switching hens to Purina® Organic Starter-Grower when molting begins in order to maintain organic status and provide a higher level of nutrition they need for feather regrowth.
  2. Keep stress low
    While on vacation, people generally want plenty of comfort and room to relax. It isn’t so different inside the coop during molt. Keep molting chickens comfortable by preventing stress. During molt, the area where the feather shaft meets the skin can be very sensitive, so reduce handling and provide plenty of clean bedding. Offer enough space for your birds to rest and relax in private. For each bird, four square feet inside the coop and 10 square feet outside of the coop can keep them comfortable. In addition, provide access to plenty of fresh, clean water and proper air ventilation. Hydration and ventilation can help keep the backyard coop spa-like for feather regrowth. Avoid introducing new flock members during this time, as adding in new friends and potentially re-shuffling the pecking order could add stress.
  3. Transition back to layer feed
    Once birds are ready to return from vacation and begin producing eggs, it’s time to adjust the nutrient profile to match their energy needs once again. When hens begin laying eggs, transition back to a complete layer feed that matches your goals. Gradually mix the complete layer feed with the high-protein feed over the course of 7 to 10 days. This can help avoid digestive upsets and allows birds to get used to the taste and texture of their new feed. Once they’re back on a complete layer feed and have vibrant new feathers, get ready again for farm fresh eggs for your family.

Want More Productive Cows?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Focus on replacement heifer development for more productive cows

Replacement heifer nutrition and management can impact your cow herd for generations.

Think of the most valuable cows in your herd. What makes them stand out?
They probably…Productive Cows
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  • Stay in good body condition
  • Breed back early in the breeding season
  •  Calve without difficulty
  • Wean a heavy, healthy calf…

and they do it all consistently, staying in the herd for many years as a profitable cow. But, let’s take it back a life stage. Your most valuable and productive cows all started as replacement heifers. Set heifers up for long-term success in the cow herd with these tips:

Select the right replacements

Use visual appraisal. Look for fertile, easy-fleshing females. A heifer that’s easy-fleshing stays in good body condition score (BCS), and if she stays in good BCS, she has better odds of getting bred earlier.

Identify older heifers. Older heifers are typically the offspring of cows that calved early in the breeding season, which can imply that those heifers are fertile like their dams.

Refer to calving records. Without records, we tend to select heifers that are bigger, not necessarily older. If large heifers are consistently selected as replacements, you might end up with cows that are too big for their environment. Large cows can also require more supplemental feed to breed back promptly and raise their calves.

Take reproductive tract scores 45 days before breeding. Work with a veterinarian to score reproductive tracts. Cull the heifers scoring below a 3 on the 1 (immature or infertile) to 5 (cycling) scoring scale. Heifers that score a 4 or 5 are ideal replacement heifers.

Set heifers up for success

Target proper weights. Once you select your replacements, aim for them to reach 60-65% of their mature weight at breeding (around 14-15 months of age). Research has shown you could sacrifice conception rates and longevity if heifers are below 55% of mature weight at breeding.1

Monitor growth rates. Heifers should grow 1.25-1.5 pounds per head per day from weaning until first breeding to meet target weights. Monitor heifer weights to ensure they’re on track.

Provide nutrition to hit growth rates. Select high-energy nutrition, like Purina® Accuration® supplements with Intake Modifying Technology®, to complement your forages and help provide predictable intake that delivers targeted gains. Depending on weather and forage conditions, spring-born heifers require 4-8 pounds of supplemental nutrition per day.

Don’t forget about mineral. Offer Purina® Wind and Rain® Mineral year-round to build mineral reserves ahead of high mineral requirements during pregnancy and at calving.

Choose the right environment. Develop heifers in the same environment that they’re going to work in as productive cows. If you have pasture and forage available to develop heifers, that’s the way to go.

Consider breeding heifers earlier. Heifers then get 20 to 30 days extra to come back into estrus and breed back with the mature cow herd.

Focus on nutrition during the first pregnancy

Maintain high-quality nutrition. Bred heifers have increasing nutritional needs throughout gestation. They’re eating to nourish a fetus and to grow to 85% of their mature weight by first calving. Continue offering supplemental nutrition, like Accuration® Liquid supplement or Accuration® Range Supplements, designed to match bred heifer requirements with changing forage conditions.

Keep your eye on shifting targets. Target heifers to be around 85% of their mature weight and in a BCS 6 at calving. Score heifers 90 days before calving to allow adequate time to help heifers add body condition if needed. Research shows heifers in proper BCS at calving have optimized rebreeding success. Conversely, heifers with inadequate body condition at calving can have a 24% reduction in rebreeding success.2

Develop a customized replacement heifer nutrition program at J&N Feed & Seed.

article brought to you by N.T. Cosby, Ph.D., Senior Cattle Nutritionist, Purina Animal Nutrition

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