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The Hagen Avicultural Research Institute (HARI) has been working on a formulated diet since 1985 and started feeding it in 1986.
After trying seed diets, seed diets mixed with pellets, and soft-food mashes, HARI finally determined the most practical method of feeding a breeding colony of Psittacines was feeding exclusively a formulated extruded granule.
TROPICAN is an extruded granule and has a greater nutrient density and digestibility than other products on the market. This results in; better plumage, weight balance, lower consumption, greater metabolic water production therefore lower water intake and lower urination, pleasant smelling feces and excellent palatability.
HARI feeds TROPICAN exclusively to more than 350 parrots of about four dozen different species. The birds have shown no signs of feather stress bars or poor pigmentation, kidney disease, thinness, obesity, weak bones or other nutritionally related problems. Only after confirming our nutritional philosophies on our own in house birds and raising almost 100 parrots on the formula have we decided to market the diet.
HIGH PERFORMANCE BREEDING DIET
The first phase of our product development research has given attention to a “High Performance” diet which would meet the higher requirements for breeding (parental egg laying and rearing of young) and growth (handfeeding from hatch).
The TROPICAN Breeding Diet is a finely ground up form of the granules. This is to include the benefits of high temperature extrusion cooking such as gelatinization of the starches which improves the water holding properties of the formula, destruction of field bacteria, and easier digestion.
LIFE TIME FORMULA
A lower protein and calcium maintenance or “Life-Time Formula” has been developed for pet birds who are not molting or under any other stress such as cooler temperatures. Natural colours such as those found in carrots and alfalfa add interest for the bird without being artificial.
NUTRIENT DENSITY AND DIGESTIBILITY
One of the major differences between Tropican and other products is our significantly higher fat level. When we fed other products to our birds they developed wet, smelly droppings.
These products are basically glorified farm pellets and probably are least cost formulated like poultry feed (they actually look like chicken feed). These products have minimal levels of essential fatty acids and amino acids.
HARI then decided to increase the caloric density of our formula with more fat, so that the bird would have to eat and drink less. Our guaranteed fat level in the High Performance diet is a minimum 9% but we actually run the fat at 10%. This is about twice the fat found in other pellets. HARI has had no obesity problem but more importantly has no skinny birds either. Other breeders who use diets with the lower fat levels report skinny African Greys and Cockatoos unless they supplement these pellets with oil seeds such as sunflower. Any pellet that has to be supplemented with oil seeds or fruits can hardly be called complete.
Birds, like all animals, eat to balance their energy needs. When comparing the protein versus dietary energy of Tropican with other diets, the levels are similar. Although the percent of protein in the diets is different, so is the available energy level. Since Tropican has a higher caloric density, birds eat less of it.
The amount of protein consumed and used by the bird is actually less with Tropican due its higher fat levels. This also reduces the amount of protein the bird must use for energy. Metabolic water is a byproduct of fat metabolism reducing water intake. When protein is broken down and used as a energy source the uric acid byproduct must be excreted by the kidney which can be stressful.
Parrots have significantly more taste buds than chickens, so why do many diets look and taste like chicken feed? Unlike farm pellets these granules break cleanly and do not explode into fine powder like pellets do. The parrot is able to hold the rest of the granule and eat the piece it broke off. Again this difference results in a benefit to the consumer as significantly less wastage is associated with TROPICAN.
Some bird owners find it hard to feed their bird uniform, formulated diets. Tropican's generous levels of important nutrients allows it to be diluted by the addition of, up to 20 per cent on a weight basis, fruits and veges. After three years none of our birds has become a feather picker because its bored of the uniform pellets. TROPICAN is a hard dense granule which parrots enjoy biting into.
TROPICAN's ingredients also include natural fruit flavours for increased palatability. The method of application of these flavours appears to be as important as the types of flavours used. We have tried many combinations of fruit flavorings over several years of trial and error feeding to come up with a blend that the majority of birds liked. The flavours we ultimately decided on using are natural orange, apple, banana and raspberry extracts. For maximum stimulation of the birds senses we dust and spray the outside of the granule with these concentrated dehydrated fruit extracts. The combination of flavours were chosen because they were favoured by the majority of the birds and resulted in the least amount of wastage due to selecting.
The TROPICAN Diets contain a larger variety of ingredients such as corn, soybean, wheat, sunflower kernel, peanut meat, and safflower oil. This range of ingredients give the pellet a taste which birds are accustomed to and also improves the nutritional value of the formulation.
IS IT COMPLETE?
Some veterinarians say that because the minimum nutrient requirements for parrots are not known, companies can not state that they have a complete diet. But precise minimum requirements do not necessarily need to be known to formulate an adequate diet. HARI raised 60 amazons, cockatoos and macaws on TROPICAN Breeding Diet before claiming that the formula was complete. If the requirements for excellent growth are met then it would be difficult to say that the formula is not complete. In general individual plant proteins may be deficient in some essential amino acids but by using different grains this is minimized. Also significant amounts of methionine and lysine are supplemented to the formula. The addition of these limiting amino acids makes the quality of the protein equal to that of the best animal sources. There are no narcotics or other addictive chemicals in sunflower kernel, contrary to what some safflower seed companies may say.
Products which contain fish meal as a source of protein are less palatable. Besides producing an off odour to the food, fish meal could be a source of pathogenic bacteria, and may be produced by mass netting a natural resource in an unsustainable and destructive manner.
The rate of growth should not be the only criteria in evaluating a diet but also should include the health of the babies, the ease of feeding and weaning and the amount of wastage associated with the food. The method of feeding babies and their housing has a lot to do with their health. Some breeders will too quickly blame the food for disease problems and not question their own cleanliness or feeding methods. Some common problems are using the same syringe for different clutches of babies, and pseudomonas bacteria growing in incubator and brooder water reservoirs.
We have also included vitamin C to our formula. Although vitamin C does not appear to be required by most parrots, it may reduce the chance of disease during stressful periods and lories may require it. HARI feeds the Tropican Breeding Diet exclusively to our lories who lick it up just like they would pollen. Vitamin C does have excellent anti-oxidant properties thus protecting the other vitamins from inactivation. Many products are missing this 14th vitamin which acts as a natural preservative. Vitamin E has a similar affect as well as being important in fertility and preventing fat oxidation. TROPICAN has significantly higher levels of these important vitamins.
QUALITY CONTROL AND MICROBIAL CONTAMINATION
Even slight microbial contamination of feed is serious since they are fed to babies with poorly developed immune systems. HARI performs microbiological tests on each batch of TROPICAN to assure quality control. An obvious way to reduce the chance of feed being contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms is not to use ingredients which may contain them, such as animal by products and this includes not using fish or egg as an ingredients. Our low plate count (the name of the test to check the number of organisms) reflects the benefits of extruding, that is the killing of organisms naturally present in some feed ingredients.
This high temperature processing could destroy some of the vitamins in the formula but this was taken into consideration when formulating. HARI has worked closely with Hoffmann-La Roche on the vitamin and mineral premix in TROPICAN. Their expertise on the stability and suggested levels of these nutrients along with our product testing has resulted in guaranteed levels of all vitamins. Methods to assure these levels include the use of more expensive encapsulated vitamins, the addition of sensitive ones after extrusion and using levels which are higher than the estimated minimum requirement.