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The effect of alternative feeding strategies for broiler breeder pullets: 1. Welfare and performance during rearing

The effect of alternative feeding strategies for broiler breeder pullets: 1. Welfare and performance during rearing

Poultry Science 98(9): 3377-3390

Broiler breeders have impaired reproductive performance when fed to satiety but they can achieve an optimal hatching egg production under feed restriction. Feed restriction is a welfare concern due to signs of hunger, lack of satiety, and frustrated feeding motivation. The objective of this research was to examine the effect of a rationed alternative diet and non-daily feeding schedules on the performance and welfare of broiler breeder pullets reared under simulated commercial conditions. At 3 wk of age, 1,680 Ross 308 pullets were allocated to 24 pens fed with 1 of 4 treatments: 1) daily control diet (control); 2) daily alternative diet (40% soybean hulls and 1 to 5% calcium propionate); 3) 4/3 control diet (4 on-feed days per week; 3 non-consecutive off-feed days per week); and 4) graduated control diet (feeding frequency varied with age). Body weight and body weight uniformity were recorded at 3, 5, 7, 11, 17, and 21 wk of age. Pullets were scored for feather coverage, foot lesions, and hock burns biweekly. Physiological indicators (plasma glucose, corticosterone, hematology, and feather traits) and feeding motivation were also determined throughout rearing during on- and off-feed days. Data were analyzed using a linear mixed regression model, with pen nested in the model and age as a repeated measure. Compared to control, pullets under the 3 alternative feeding strategies had a lower feeding motivation during early rearing (P = 0.03), better feather coverage throughout rearing (P = 0.001), fewer feather fault bars (P = 0.006), and a delayed increase in the basophil to lymphocyte ratio (P = 0.001). These results indicate that the 3 alternative feeding strategies (the alternative, the graduated, and the 4/3 schedule) may decrease feeding motivation and alleviate stress compared to the control, suggesting an overall improvement in broiler breeder welfare without negative consequences on their performance.

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Accession: 066705709

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 31001626

DOI: 10.3382/ps/pez170

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