Feed Supplements to Pasturage for Growth of Chickens

D. C. Kennard, L. E. Thatcher, AND V. D. Chamberlin

March, 1949

Good range and pasturage offer the best opportunities for reducing feed costs in production of pullets for egg production and for the production of 4- to 6-pound chickens for marketing. How then can these opportunities be realized by poultry raisers to the fullest extent? What feed is necessary to supplement pasturage for satisfactory growth of chickens? To answer these questions, extensive experiments have been in progress during the past four years at the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station.

What is Good Range and Pasturage?

Despite new information now available relative to nutritional requirements for the growth of chickens indoors, a good range which provides ample pasturage continues to be the most efficient and economical way for most poultrymen to raise pullets and chickens for marketing. The outdoor range provides well-recognized advantages, such as fresh air, direct exposure to sunshine, more exercise, and pasturage which includes succulent green feed, bugs, insects, worms, and the like.

Moreover, the outside range can provide the necessary isolation of young chickens from older birds, which must always be considered as carriers. In fact, effective isolation (which can be realized by a suitable outside range) is often the prime factor in determining the success of the new crop of chickens each year. The pasturage may be edible grass and weeds, clover, alfalfa, or best of all, Ladino clover.

History of Three Range Rations

In early tests it was found that chickens which received free choice of whole grain and a 19 percent protein mash [that is, whole grain in one feeder and mash in another] when on a good range balanced their diet with protein at the rate of 14 percent of their total feed intake. It was from this basis that the Ohio Station's special 14 percent protein, whole oats/mash range ration was derived. This proved a highly satisfactory ration and method of feeding chickens on range after the first 8 weeks. Being an all-in-one, whole oats/mash mixture, it was found preferable to the feeding of whole grain and mash separately. This ration with its greater protein and mineral content was found the most satisfactory for supplementing pasturage other than Ladino clover.

Then the question arose as to whether a 12 percent protein ration, with a saving of nearly half of the protein meals, might likewise meet the requirements for satisfactory growth of chickens having access to Ladino clover pasturage. The 12 percent protein ration did prove equally satisfactory.

The surprisingly good results secured from the 12-percent protein ration suggested that perhaps it was not the protein content but rather the mineral content that was mostly responsible for its success. If so, could similar results be secured from the use of corn, minerals, and Ladino clover? Seeking the answer to this question led to the discovery of the corn and minerals ration which appears to be the final answer to the question: What is the simplest feed necessary to supplement a good range and Ladino clover pasturage for the satisfactory growth of chickens? Thus, it proved to be the minerals which were the missing links responsible for the previous failure to secure satisfactory growth of chickens on Ladino clover pasturage when they received whole grain without mash.
This last named ration consisted of whole corn or wheat free choice in one feeder and a second feeder containing a mash consisting of:

  • 90 pounds of coarsely ground corn,
  • 6 pounds of bonemeal,
  • 2 pounds of oystershell or limestone grit,
  • 2 pounds of granite or gravel grit, and
  • 2 pounds of salt.

Three Methods of Feeding Corn and Minerals

The corn and minerals ration may be fed by any of three different methods:

  1. the free choice of whole corn and a ground corn-minerals mash, as mentioned above;
  2. the free choice of whole corn in one feeder and the minerals (without ground corn) in another; and
  3. an all-mash mixture of coarsely ground corn and the minerals in a single feeder (without whole corn).

In an experiment with Leghorn pullets, little difference in body weight was evident among the three methods of feeding corn and minerals. There was, however, a lower (9 percent) feed consumption by the pullets that received whole corn and minerals in separate feeders, but this was not true with one test with R. I. Reds. More experiments will be necessary to establish the comparative merits of the three methods of feeding the corn and minerals ration. Until then, the feeding of whole corn and minerals in separate feeders may be considered questionable. This procedure has the further disadvantage of having to provide a special weather-proof feeder for the minerals. [RP: Presumably because the mineral mixture, unleavened by ground corn, turns into cement if it gets wet.]

Ladino Clover Versus Bluegrass and Farm Pasturage

Is Ladino clover necessary to secure the greatest benefits and economy from pasturage or may grass or run-of-farm range serve much the same purpose? This question is answered in four experiments involving 725 Leghorn and 2,250 R. I. Red pullets.

Pullets on Ladino clover pasturage made a consistently faster rate of growth with less feed than did similar pullets on bluegrass or run-of-farm ranges. Leghorns on Ladino clover made 11 percent greater growth with 12 percent less feed than did pullets on bluegrass range. R. I. Red pullets made 9 percent faster growth with 1 2 percent less feed than did similar pullets on run-of-farm range.

In one test R. I. Red pullets receiving the 12-percent protein ration and Ladino clover made 17 percent more growth than did similar pullets on run-of-farm range that received the 14-percent protein ration. Feed consumption of both groups was much the same.

The faster rate of growth of pullets on Ladino clover pasturage with approximately 12 percent less feed indicates the distinct advantage and economy in raising chickens on a range of Ladino clover. Ladino clover, with its greater protein content and greater palatability throughout the growing season, permits the successful use of the 12 percent protein ration or the corn and minerals ration. These rations, with Ladino clover, enable the poultryman to realize greatest economy in raising his chickens on good range and pasturage.

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