With income likely to fall for many shoots this year due to the recession, Mr. Leach warns against cutting costs on feed as an easy solution.

“Time and time again, opting for the cheapest feed to make savings results in a much higher price being paid. It is short sightedness in the extreme, nearly always reducing the quantity and quality of birds.

“The demands of egg laying are high, and breeding rations should be scrutinised to ensure that essential nutrients are readily available. These include protein and energy sources and the key trace elements of copper, zinc, manganese and selenium.

“When feed is formulated correctly a higher egg production is achieved, and if, for example, hatchability can be improved by just one per cent it potentially gives producers a net gain of an extra £20 for every 100 hens.”