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Achieving high levels of performance in pheasant and partridge breeders depends upon producing high numbers of eggs, with good shell quality, that hatch well.
The foundation for a successful laying period is set during the prebreeder period. Here, Sportsman trials have shown that the best performance is achieved by birds that are neither too big nor too small at the start of lay.
In one trial, carried out over 3 years with pheasants, heavy birds at the start of lay produced 4-5 fewer eggs per hen during the laying season, and hatchability was also reduced. Heavier birds generally produce bigger eggs, which tend to have poorer shell thickness and will be more likely to crack and thus not hatch. Prolapse in the hens is also more likely in heavier, fatter hens.
The better hatchability of eggs from light compared to heavy hens is shown below.
However, the colder temperatures experienced in winter will increase the bird’s energy requirements, particularly if feathering is not as good as desired, and it is important that hens begin the laying season in good condition and with at least some fat reserves. If the hens are too small, egg weight will be small, and the resulting day old chicks will have poorer vitality and viability.
Management systems and the availability and nature of supplementary feeds fed over winter vary significantly between producers, but there is no doubt that subsequent breeding success is best supported by the use of a correctly specified maintenance/prebreeder feed fed before the breeding period to keep birds at the correct weight, fit but not too fat.
Sportsman’s Maintenance/Prebreeder Feed has been designed to meet these needs and contains a low (13%) protein level, a medium/low energy level and a full complement of minerals, trace elements and vitamins. Inclusion of organic as well as inorganic forms of the trace elements selenium and zinc help to maintain and improve skin condition, feathering and fertility.
The timing of introduction of the following laying feed is important – performance will be reduced if it is introduced too early or too late – about 3 weeks before eggs are first expected is about right.
You can be sure that specifications of Sportsman prebreeder feeds have been set to help lay the foundations for good breeder performance.