New Zealand’s Tegel Foods Ltd has a 50-year history as a high quality producer of poultry. The company is involved in all components of the poultry supply chain, from feedmills to distribution, and is known for their chickens’ low feed conversion ratio (FCR). During Alltech’s recent Symposium, Tegel’s Bill Williams explained how his company achieves its low FCR.
According to Williams, five major factors allow for Tegel’s low FCR: disease control, genetic selection, animal nutrition and lowest cost modeling, strategic feed procurement and manufacture, and animal husbandry and planning.
Tegel’s New Zealand location allows for especially effective disease control. In fact, Williams referred to New Zealand as “chicken heaven” because it is free of several poultry diseases affecting other parts of the world. Since they don’t have to combat these diseases, Tegel chickens can use more of the energy from feed to grow. Using more energy from feed for growth means a better (lower) FCR. It is also easier to tell how other, non-disease factors influence Tegel’s chickens’ FCR. Poultry producers in other countries can use this information to determine the best way to manage non-disease factors affecting FCR.
Though New Zealand is free of several major poultry diseases, Tegel must still protect their poultry from other infections. Tegel’s chicken sheds are designed for cleaning, and litter is completely replaced after every batch of chickens. As a result, salmonella is present in less than 2.5 percent of all flocks produced.
Genetic selection is another factor that influences Tegel’s low FCR. Tegel uses Aviagen’s Ross 308 chicken and achieves exceptional FCR for this breed. In fact, Aviagen uses Tegel’s performance as an example when promoting the breed. The genetics of the Ross 308 have the potential to allow for improved FCR over the next five years. However, pad burn and meat quality, leg, and gut issues are hampering this potential.
Williams said Tegel utilizes knowledge of animal nutrition and lowest cost modeling to achieve the best FCR possible for specific feeds. The Emmans, Fisher, and Gous (EFG) Model, which calculates approximate broiler feed intake and growth for various situations, is used to determine the levels of energy, the levels of amino acids, and the amount of food that should be fed for the optimal profit margin.
Strategic feed procurement and manufacture also contributes to Tegel’s low FCR. According to Williams, the texture of the feed produced in Tegel’s three feed mills is designed for optimal intake by the chicken. After production, feed quality is tested NIR analysis before it leaves the mill.
The final factor Williams cites as contributing to Tegel’s FCR is animal husbandry and planning. Tegel grows male and female chickens separately because the males generally have a lower FCR. The company also considers the setup of sheds at their grower farms, as well as the shed equipment, lighting, ventilation, temperature, and humidity for optimum FCR.
Tegel’s current average FCR is 1.50, while their best shed has an FCR of 1.30. Despite these great FCRs, Williams says “chooks,” Aussie slang for “chickens,” are a constant challenge, and Tegel is constantly seeking to improve their FCR.