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Sorghum in the feed of laying hens, meeting with a Romanian producer

October 04, 2018

Climate change and the rise of agro ecology, driven by the need to reduce input use, means European agriculture is undergoing major change! It is based on innovation, agronomy and smart plant breeding. Faced with these challenges, sorghum has clear benefits. Some 80% of Europe’s agricultural land is not irrigated and sorghum’s robustness during droughts is raising its profit among increasing numbers of farmers. While 60% of wheat, barley and maize are destined for animal feed, sorghum plays a complementary role: high in protein, with starch to provide energy and little sensitivity to mycotoxins in the field, it enhances the sanitary and nutritional quality of feed rations. Sorghum offers a safeguard for animal nutrition for example for laying hens.


Aiming for optimal egg quality while optimizing feed costs

Cristian Spiridon raises 112,000 laying hens on a 400 ha farm in Romania. He grows all the cereals used in his poultry rations. Sorghum makes up 18% of the whole ration, reducing the price of his feed after its manufacture. Pecked by hens, sorghum seeds contribute to their well-being.

Based near the Romanian town of Barlad, farmer Cristian has two large buildings housing his layer hens which produce 100,000 eggs per day. He pays close attention to both the cost and nutritional quality of feed because his eggs are appreciated not only by shoppers at a chain of supermarkets in Bucharest but further afield in Italy and Austria, and, as diversification is a necessity, on the markets

of eastern Romania: “I take the time to talk with my clients,” he says. “Healthy, dense yolks with a lovely color are the indicators of good quality which are often raised.” Cristian controls almost the entire production chain, from the raw material used to make the feed through to the distribution of eggs. He keeps a very close eye on profitability ratios and traceability. The cereals that go into the feed formula for his hens are grown on the farm. The formula has been specially designed by nearby feed producer Combavipor SA Galati, which is the destination for his crops.


Feed costs reduced by €11 per ton thanks to sorghum

Thanks to sorghum, he has found an answer to the economic constraints of egg production. “My 112,000 hens consume 13.5 tons of feed every day and the slightest variation in price has a significant impact on the farm’s profitability,” he explains. Working with the feed manufacturer, he compared two formulations (see graph).

The first (entitled ‘sorghum’) contains 24% sorghum, 18% maize, 22.3% soya meal, wheat, barley, sunflower meal and additives. The second (entitled ‘maize’) has the same ratios of barley, sunflower meal and additives but soya meal is increased to 23.8%, maize to 38% and wheat to 10%. While the nutritional quality is similar, the sorghum formula is €11 per ton cheaper. “I save € 4,500 a month,” he says. This bonus allows him to employ 10 staff. The sorghum, both red and white-grained varieties, provides the same energy value as maize but with 2.5 points more protein. In fact, it offsets some of the protein intake provided by soya meal and the energy provided by maize.



Feed performs well

In addition to price, how feed performs is an important criterion. “I have two feed systems,” explains Cristian. “The first is a chain feeder system, which runs all along the building. The second consists of

small trolleys but they do not work well if the feed gives off more dust.” Feed rich in sorghum has a better consistency, it “flows better”. In addition, hens search out the small sorghum seeds and peck them.

In terms of cropping, Cristian has identified another advantage: sorghum performs well in times of drought and requires little treatment apart from feeding. Provided sowing has been successful, it is an easy crop to grow. “The soil must be finely prepared for the seed to germinate properly,” he explains. Having noticed an increase in the number of episodic droughts over the past decade, he plans to increase the area dedicated to sorghum by 15%.