Comparison of the effect of different methods of molt: Production and welfare evaluation
The purpose of this study was to evaluate alternative molting protocols assessing hen welfare and performance during and after molt. Hyline W-36 pullets were housed at 15 wk of age, and their egg production was obtained during this first cycle. When birds were 80 wk, the following molting treatments were applied: a conventional molt consisting of 10 d of fasting followed by cracked corn for 8 d and a pullet developer diet for 10 d; and 4 alternative molting programs: a soy hulls-based diet (12% CP, 1,455 kcal/kg of ME, and 1.38% Ca) offered for 14 d followed by cracked corn for 4 d and a pullet developer diet for 10 d; and the other 3 molt regimens consisted of feeding soy hulls for 4, 8, or 12 d followed by 10, 6, or 2 d, respectively, of a soy hulls-based diet and 4 d of cracked corn plus 10 d of a pullet developer diet. A nonmolted group of birds was fed a laying hen diet during the experimental period. Hen-day egg number was recorded daily for 56 wk (through 80–136 wk of age). The nonmolted hens showed lower hen-day production and fewer intact eggs and a higher number of cracked and shell-less eggs compared with those of the molted hens (P < 0.0001). A significant treatment by age effect (P < 0.0001) was observed for the variables of high-density lipoproteins and triglycerides. Control hens showed the lowest highdensity lipoprotein concentration and the highest triglyceride levels at 84 wk of age when compared with all treatments. The lack of difference in heterophil-tolymphocyte ratio during molt suggests little influence of molting protocols on this variable. Regardless of the treatments, molting was deleterious to bone quality. A high mobilization of Ca through bone resorption for eggshell formation could explain the results obtained. Behavioral patterns coincided with a decline in frustration activities and an increase in alertness as molt proceeded until 83 wk of age. Alternative molting diets consisting of soybean hulls were successful in providing acceptable postmolt egg production performance.
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24 February 2012
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