Precision Feeding of Poultry: Matching Nutrient Supply to the Nutrient Requirements of Individual Birds

Martin Zuidhof
University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB

The ultimate goal of every nutritionist is to perfectly match nutrients supplied with nutrient requirements of individual birds at every moment feed is consumed. The poultry industry remains a long way from realizing that goal. We must shift our thinking from flock-level to the nutritional needs of individual birds every moment of every day. We have developed a precision feeding system to feed every bird the right amount of the right feed at the right time. Uniquely, the system automates control of nutrient intake for poultry. It consists of smart feeding stations connected to a computer that communicates with every station and records the accumulated data centrally. The stations allow one bird to eat at a time, without interference from other birds. This allows us to control the formulation and level of feed intake of each bird. Research on the nutrient requirements of individuals is sparse, and models need to be built and refined to perfect the provision of the right feed to the right bird at the right time. However, even our current limited knowledge of how optimal nutrient ratios change with age, level of production, and environmental conditions can facilitate substantial improvement if we refine our current flock-level phase feeding strategies. Technology will help us shorten the time between phases. By blending diets to achieve closer real-time matches between nutrient supply and the nutrient requirements of each individual bird, we will reduce wasted nutrients and unrealized potential by an unprecedented margin. This approach will reduce FCR dramatically, while simultaneously reducing the land base required to produce feedstuffs for poultry, and the subsequent excretion of N and P, and emissions of CO2 and NH3. Precision feeding technology will facilitate not only the implementation of more socially responsible poultry feeding, it can also be used to conduct the research necessary to continuously improve models, and implementation of smart poultry nutrition. Big data from each individual has the potential to be leveraged by advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence. With this approach, even commercial operations will be able to participate in research with an eye to achieve every nutritionist’s ultimate goal – maximum profit with minimum waste.