Every-day feeding programs have benefits for broiler-breeder pullets as they approach sexual maturity, according to University of Georgia research.
In work presented at the 2023 International Poultry Scientific Forum, birds fed every day, rather than a skip-a-day regime, had higher bone-mineral density and carcass-fat content, as well as better eggshell quality and hatch of fertile eggs during lay.
With industry-wide improvements in feed efficiency, producers often employ skip-a-day feeding regimens to help manage bodyweight gain. The team of scientists set out to explore whether this was having any effects on reproductive fitness.
After randomly allocating birds to pens where they were fed either on an every-day or skip-a-day regime, birds were continuously weighed throughout the study, while sampled individuals were scanned using a technology called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, which measures bone density.
After a 21-week growing period, pullets were moved to hen pens with male birds. Investigators collected data on eggs and hen performance from weeks 25 to 60.
The difference in rearing regime had no observable effect on egg production, feed conversion, hatchability or hen mortality.
However, in addition to the increases in bone density and carcass fat content, eggs from birds on every-day diets were significantly heavier and of higher quality, though the latter fell marginally outside statistical significance.
The team also recorded higher hatch of fertile eggs, and significantly fewer losses of embryos through contamination and dead pips.