Chickens

As the poultry landscape continues to change, there are unique opportunities to improve management practices that enhance profitability.

With reductions in dietary antibiotic inclusions, minimizing the introduction of pathogens is essential. While feed quality is managed at the feed mill, long-term on-farm storage is known to deteriorate feed quality, creating opportunities for molds, toxins and bacterial growth. Feed bin management is an opportunity to ensure your poultry receive feed that is free of molds and harmful bacteria that may slow growth and diminish profits.

The simplest approach is frequent visual inspections of your feed bins and feed bin bottoms. While inspecting, look for leaks and cracks that may allow water into the bin. Be sure to focus on feed bin bottoms. Check for new or growing piles of feed dust under feed bin bottoms. The weather, combined with vibrations and forces associated with feed augering, can cause damage to these feed bin bottoms.

Following visual inspection, you should immediately address any issues. Properly addressing issues includes repairing or replacing components rather that patching with duct tape or some other quick fix. Cleaning up leaked feed under feed bin bottoms helps you monitor feed leakage from one inspection to the next. Adopting these strategies in your management plan will pay off in the future by minimizing unexpected equipment failure.

While no one likes to climb cold and sometimes icy feed bin ladders, inspecting the seal around feed bin lids is important. New feed bins are often equipped with spring-loaded lids that helps maintain a proper seal. Other technology, such as counterweighted lids, can be used to keep lids closed and sealed between feed deliveries.

Make sure to include this step in your frequent inspections. Ensuring feed bin lids remain closed will help increase feed shelf life and maintain the physical quality of pelleted feed. The environment inside the feed bin should minimize the potential for pathogen and mycotoxin proliferation. The easiest way to ensure these organisms do not grow is to keep the inside of the bin dry. A properly sealed and functioning lid helps to ensure the feed bin environment supports high feed quality.

When birds leave your farm, excess feed should be removed from feed bins. Most mills will not take this feed back because of biosecurity concerns. However, some integrators will make use of excess feed. Therefore, proper communication with your service technician to minimize excess feed is beneficial.

Best practices include biannual feed bin washing and disinfecting. Be sure to remove the boot to allow proper drying. Adopting a spring and fall feed bin cleaning schedule may help you implement this practice. Removing excess feed and then washing bins is important because feed dust and fines tend to congregate on the side of feed bins. Feed particles can clump together and begin to mold. These feed cakes house the bacteria and toxins that proliferate in ideal conditions.

Feed bin management can prevent the introduction of pathogens that ultimately affect your farm’s profitability.

John Boney is an assistant professor and poultry specialist with Penn State Extension.

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