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Pullet rearing: Building a foundation for profitable layers

by Marné Visagie

Pullet rearing serves as the foundation for the layer phase. If the pullets are reared correctly, the layers will perform efficiently and increase the profitability of the farm. However, pullet rearing is often neglected and this leads to problems in lay, resulting in a less efficient business unit.

The purpose of the pullet rearing phase is to ensure that the bird reaches the correct body weight  at the correct age to ensure sexual maturity is reached at the right time. One can either raise pullets on the farm or purchase them from a pullet farmer as point-of-lay birds. Both of these have their advantages and disadvantages.

It will depend on your business unit to determine which one will work best for you. Previously, a “fat” pullet was considered undesirable, but this additional fat reserve can be extremely beneficial during the laying phase, especially during heat stress. The modern-day pullet and layer have been bred to have a lower feed intake; these birds are considered as shy eaters. It is thus more difficult to raise a fat pullet than an underweight pullet.

As the pullet reaches peak production, it has a very high energy demand. It requires energy for maintenance, growth, oviduct development as well as production. This high energy demand, coupled with a low feed intake, may lead to an energy deficit. If the bird has a fat reserve that was built up during the rearing phase, it can draw energy from this reserve in order to combat the negative energy balance.

If, however, the bird faces an energy deficit and it does not have a fat reserve, there may be a post-peak dip in production. This is due to the fact that the bird does not have enough energy and will thus have to conserve it by reducing production.

Pullet rearing has proven to be complex, and if not done correctly, may lead to a variety of problems. Thus, if the farmer does not have a good record keeping system, it is difficult to find the root cause of the problem.

Together with accurate record keep­ing, pullet managers must ensure that the breeder guidelines are followed when raising their growing birds. It is also important to consider not just age in weeks when looking at feeding guidelines, but more importantly, body weight and condition to make sure that the birds reach their target weight at sexual maturity.

Therefore, it is important to buy a well-balanced feed as it provides the necessary nutrients to ensure that pullets and layers reach their full genetic potential. Good pullets will lead to healthy, profitable layer birds.

For more information on how to build a foundation for profitable layers, contact Wiehan Visagie at or +260-979-763-250.

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