The Role of Vitamins in Poultry Nutrition
With the number of variables that play a part in maximizing birds' potential, you don’t need lack of nutrition to hinder everything else. Proper poultry nutrition involves the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, organic acids and other nutrients. Hitting the nutrition bullseye can really maximize birds’ resilience when faced with stress.
Most farmers get balanced poultry feed from integrators, but many integrators are cutting back vitamin supplements from food and allowing you, as the farmer, to add vitamins and minerals on your own. This creates a big opportunity for you to tailor nutrition for better performance.
As a farmer, you know birds are picky creatures—but I don’t mean they won’t eat their veggies like a fussy four-year-old. Chickens will pretty much eat anything. That’s not the problem. I’m talking about the finely tuned balance they require from the right temperature and lighting to nipple water pressure and dry floors. When birds are stressed already on the inside from nutritional deficiency, a temperature drop or power outage can really put them over the edge and result in big problems for your production, performance and mortality numbers. BUT a healthy bird is able to bounce back more quickly.
How can you hit the nutrition bullseye?
Poultry requires all known vitamins except Vitamin C. A proper balance of fatty acids, amino acids, water-soluble vitamins, and fat-soluble vitamins, significantly strengthens the immune system. The result is an increased response to diseases and other challenges. The same is true in our bodies. But remember, balance is key. They work more like a team—the quarterback will rarely score a touchdown without a few good linemen.
More than a century ago, German scientist, Justus von Liebig formulated what he called “The Law of the Minimum,” which states that growth is proportional to the amount of the most limiting nutrient. To put it simply—you’re only as strong as your weakest link. A single deficiency in any area of poultry nutrition can cause undue stress, lower performance and potentially higher mortality.
For example, Vitamin K2 helps birds’ bodies process Calcium and Vitamin D. It also helps with blood health. You might be supplementing birds with as much Vitamin D and calcium as you can, but without enough K2, their bodies simply don’t have what they need to actually absorb it. This would cause an unexpected drop in egg production, resulting in poor quality eggs—but regardless of if you’re doing eggs at all, the lack of Vitamin D absorption is one of the BIGGEST causes for leg issues and a financial headache for you as the farmer.
What are some other necessary vitamins for poultry?
Let’s take a look at a couple more vitamin must-haves for poultry, and the possible negative health effects if birds have deficiencies in these vitamins. Deficiencies in Vitamin A, D, B2, Choline, and/or Folic Acid can all cause poor growth. Growth is what you want to see in your birds. A deficiency in Choline could result in fatty livers and a lack of Folic Acid could cause anemia. These are just a few examples but the bottom line is that any flock-threatening deficiencies can be avoided by ensuring your birds get all the necessary vitamins and minerals they need.
Even though some integrators have pulled vitamins in various complexes, a lot of them provide vitamins upon request. But, if they don’t, we recommend supplementing your birds’ feed with a multivitamin, like our Catalyst Poultry Vitamin. Catalyst includes all of the vitamins we’ve discussed and more. Specially formulated for poultry, Catalyst comes in an easy-to-use powder form. It is crafted for maximum absorption and is extremely soluble.
If you need help with poultry vitamins or simply would like to learn more, the Southland Organics team is here. Connect with me, Allen Reynolds, at 800-608-3755 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to subscribe because we are constantly adding great, educational content to help you keep your farm healthy!