The modern broiler has been genetically selected for rapid gains and efficient utilization of nutrients. Broilers are capable of thriving on widely varied types of diets, but do best on diets composed of low-fiber grains and highly digestible protein sources. They can be successfully grown in many different geographical areas to provide low-cost complete protein. Many different feedstuffs can be used to prepare diets for broilers. Broiler diets in the United States are based principally upon maize as an energy source and soybean meal as a source of amino acids. Grain sorghum and wheat are used as partial replacement for maize in areas where they are produced. Animal by-products such as meat and bone meal and poultry by-product meal typically make up approximately 5% of most broiler diets to supply both protein and minerals. Few other protein sources are utilized in poultry diets in the United States, but alternatives such as canola meal, sunflower meal, lupins, and some other legumes are utilized in countries where soybean production is minimal or infeasible. Most of these alternative protein sources are lower in amino acid digestibility than soybean meal, and often contain antinutritive factors that may limit the quantity used in broiler diets. Nutritionists should be familiar with the physical and nutritional attributes of feeds common to their region. Some sources of this information include Ensminger and Olentine and Ewing.
Broilers are normally allowed to consume their diets ad libitum, although in some instances, they are control-fed to minimize metabolic problems associated with rapid growth. Most diets are fed in pelleted form to encourage greater feed consumption and to minimize feed wastage. Broilers are grown to various ages or weights for different types of products, from birds weighing approximately 1 kg to be sold whole, to birds weighing 4 to 5 kg, grown for deboning of meat. They may be grown with males and females fed separately or combined as straight-run flocks. Although females tend to have lower requirements for most nutrients than males, the differences are minimal and typically not sufficient to warrant different formulations. The National Research Council provides nutrient recommendations for broilers; however, these are based on minimum requirements with no allowances for variation in species, gender, or other factors. Recommendations for commercial usage are given by Leeson and Summers and by Waldroup.
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