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Potential of alfalfa as an alternative molt induction diet for laying hens: egg quality and consumer acceptability

Dietary molt induction to initiate additional egg laying cycles in commercial laying hen flocks is a wide spread practice in the United States. Feed deprivation is the most commonly used method but this practice has generated several concerns which has lead to research for viable alternative approaches. From a management standpoint a single ingredient molting diet consisting of high fiber-low energy represents an easily adaptable diet for large laying hen production units. Alfalfa meal is readily available in most commercial locations and possesses many of the desirable properties of an ideal laying hen molt diet. In the current study hens at a commercial laying facility were molted by both alfalfa and feed deprivation. After the hens had reentered post-molt commercial egg production, eggs were examined for egg quality performance. Egg shell strength, albumen height, yolk height, weight, length, and yolk color were all tested using various mechanical techniques. The eggs were also sampled for testing by consumer sensory panels that assessed the desirability of the eggs' color and flavor/texture. Eggs laid by hens molted by alfalfa had a significantly lower (p < 0.05) ‘‘a*’’ level of colorimetry. Eggs laid by hens molted with alfalfa also exhibited significantly higher (p < 0.05) egg weights and length. In the consumer sensory test, there was no significant difference (p > 0.05) in color or flavor/texture scores in eggs from either feed deprived or alfalfa molted hens. The consumer sensory and mechanical quality attributes indicates that alfalfa shows promise as an alternative molt induction diet by providing a single diet option for extending egg production into a second egg laying cycle.

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24 February 2012


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