October 9th 2014

By Randy Brooks


The turkey industry has benefited substantially from the advances made by breeding and genetic selection over the years.

Nutrient requirements for growth and maintenance are influenced by factors such as age, genetic potential, bird health, physiological status, and environmental conditions.

A practical feeding challenge exists in trying to satisfy the high nutrient requirements of turkeys. The turkey’s growth rate and capacity for lean tissue accretion have increased substantially in recent years. As a result, they have high requirements for quality protein, more specifically amino acids, in the diet.

During early stages of growth, nutrient needs for skeletal development and rapid tissue accretion are more pronounced, while later a greater proportion of nutrients are diverted towards maintenance functions and fattening. Dietary energy requirements will increase continuously throughout the production cycle. Fortunately, turkeys are extremely efficient at utilizing added dietary fat to meet their high energy requirements.

In turkey starter and early grower diets, protein and amino acids are often the most expensive nutrients in the formulation. Whereas in developer/finishing diets, it is the high levels of added dietary fat that drive the cost of the ration.

Biological and environmental factors are constantly changing and interact with genetics to influence growth, feed intake and nutrient requirements. Responses to improved nutrition are only fully achieved when other factors are not limiting.

These include:

  • Brooding conditions
  • Stocking density
  • Feeder and water space
  • Lighting programs
  • Air quality
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Heat or cold stress

The bottom line – there are advantages and disadvantages to different nutritional programs. Deciding on the number and type of diets to be used in a feeding program is an economic decision based on maximizing profitability. The range of possible nutrient densities means that producers must look past feed cost per tonne to the most profitable approach.

To learn more about Turkey nutrition contact us