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Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week

Permalink Can you provide me with information on nutrition for my poultry flock, including feeding alternative feeds?

Answer: Thank you for contacting ATTRA with your request for information on your flock's diet. Please refer to the ATTRA publication 'Pastured Poultry Nutrition', a nutrition publication written by poultry nutritionist, Jeff Mattocks. You can request a copy of this publication by calling ATTRA at 1-800-346-9140. This publication should help you to balance your flock's diet by comparing the nutrient analysis of the ingredients you are feeding them to their nutritional requirements. Appendix A has the nutrient values of different feed ingredients and Appendix B has the nutritional requirements for broilers in different stages of their life. By comparing these values, it should give you an idea of what may be missing or what may be unnecessary in their diet. Poultry do have the ability to self select their diet if everything they need is made available. It is important to look at the amino acid levels in the available ingredients compared to what is required. Amino acids are building blocks for proteins and are essential for proper and efficient growth. Calcium is another important consideration, and oyster shells or other calcium source should be made accessible for the birds. While typically you start with a high protein (20-23%) for chicks and decrease this level as the birds get closer to harvest weight, many pastured producers continue with a 20% protein level throughout the birds life. Providing "cafeteria style" or "buffet" like feeding with separate ingredients will allow them to balance their diet to a proper protein level that could depend on their age, the weather, what they are foraging in the pasture, among other factors. While the pasture will provide some of the diet it is not wise to rely on it for a sole source of particular ingredients because what is available in the pasture and the nutrient values of what can be foraged changes throughout the year. In regards to feeding layers the distillers grain by-product: It is important to keep the layers protein level at about 16-18%. A higher protein level will result in the hens gaining too much weight which could disrupt their reproductive system and egg production. A low protein and high energy ingredient such as wheat should be made available for the laying hens as well so they can balance their diet. A calcium source should also be made available as laying hens can be depleted of calcium quickly through egg laying. In regards to feeding vegetable/bakery waste: While many backyard poultry producers feed these items to their flocks, it is not wholly recommended as a constant feeding. These items can be difficult to monitor especially if they are from an outside source and can also decrease the birds efficiency in either producing meat or eggs. An alternative way to use such items may be to start a worm bin and feed them to the worms. The worms will turn these wastes into nutrient rich worm castings (vermicompost) to use on growing plants and the worms themselves will grow and multiply and can be harvested for a high protein chicken food. More information on using worms for composting can be found in ATTRA's publication Worms for Composting. For additional information on feeding distiller grain by-products to poultry please see University of Minnesota's extensive website on the topic: A fact sheet for feeding corn distiller dried grains to poultry can be found at the following link: An excellent contact on the subject of distiller grains in livestock feeding is Dr. Sally Noll at the University of Minnesota. Her contact information follows. Dr. Sally Noll Department of Animal Science 1364 Eckles Ave St. Paul, MN 55108 612-624-4928
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Permalink What information can you give me on sprout production?

Answer: Thank you for contacting ATTRA for information about commercial sprouts production. Please read the on-line sprouts publication available on the ATTRA website. Here is the link: This publication includes photocopies of several articles which we can't provide electronically because of copyright issues. You can call ATTRA at 800-346-9140 to request a hard copy that will include all of the articles. Although the publication is old, I believe that the information is still accurate. The food safety issues about contamination of sprouts because of bacterial infestation of the seed continues to be a concern, industry-wide. The FDA has been working with growers, often through the International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA), to develop acceptable protocols to prevent contaminated sprouts from reaching the consumer. Chlorination is still the recommended method. Many sprout growers test the used wash water for contaminants and find that this is another tool to protect consumers and themselves. Here's an FDA document that might be of interest as you consider this commercial venture. The ISGA will be having its international convention May 19-22 in downtown Chicago this year. You can find more information about the convention on the ISGA site.
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Permalink What are some resources for information on pricing cuts of beef?

Answer: Thank you for contacting ATTRA for information on pricing cuts of beef. The following resources will allow you to determine yield and price for retail beef cuts. University of Vermont Meat Yield Calculation Spreadsheet
You can calculate the expected hot carcass weight and final "retail" yield for your beef, sheep, and hogs using this Excel spreadsheet. You will need the animal's live weight (or an estimate of it), the dressing percentage, and cutting yield. The spreadsheet has some default values, but you can refine them using the information in the article:
Did the Locker Plant Steal Some of My Meat?
You can also calculate what your customer will pay in total dollars and also in terms of pounds of meat received. You will need to know your slaughter fee, cut and wrap cost, and other fees, such as offal disposal fee. The Colorado State Beef Cutout Calculator
Very powerful tool for estimating beef cutout based on averages of typical beef cattle slaughtered in the United States. Direct and Local Meat Marketing Aids, University of Kentucky
Direct marketing budgets and yield and pricing guides. For the pricing guides, enter the live weight, dressing percent, slaughter and processing fees, and price per retail cut and the spreadsheet will compute net revenue.
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Permalink What information can you give me on Jerusalem artichoke production?


Answer: Thank you for your recent request for information from ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. I am pleased to provide you with information on Jerusalem artichoke (or sunchoke) production.

Jerusalem artichokes have a diverse production range, however they tend to thrive better in the cooler, temperate climates of the northern United States. Its main culinary use is the underground tuber which tastes similar to a water chestnut and is often used in salads.

When given ample water and good friable soil, it can tend to take over and become a problem by competing with other garden plants. I suggest planting it in a location in which it will not compete with other garden plants. Sunchokes are generally very hardy and do not have many insect or disease problems. The tubers should be planted first thing in the spring, which may be past in your region. Planting at a later date may reduce the yield the first year, but as I mentioned above, once the plants are established, they are quite hardy.

Below I have listed a link to fact sheet from North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. This will provide you with additional production information. I have also listed contact information for two seed distributors that carry sunchoke seed.

Schultheis, Jonathan. Growing Jerusalem Artichokes. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. January 1999.

Ronniger Potato Farm, LLC
12101 2135 Rd, Austin CO 81410, USA
(877) 204-8704

Johnny’s Selected Seed
877-Johnnys (877-564-6697)

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