Influence of particle size of the main cereal of the diet on egg production, gastrointestinal tract traits, and body measurements of brown laying hens1

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The influence of the screen size used to grind the main cereal of the diet on egg production, gastrointestinal tract (GIT) development, and body measurements was studied in hens from 17 to 49 wk of age. Diets formed a 2 × 5 factorial with 2 main cereals (corn vs. barley) and 5 screen sizes of the cereal (4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 mm). Each treatment was replicated 5 times. No interactions between main cereal and screen size were observed for any of the traits studied. Cereal type and screen size did not affect feed intake, egg production, BW gain, or quality traits of the eggs. Eggs tended to be larger (P = 0.092) in hens fed the barley diet than in hens fed the corn diet. Also, feed conversion ratio tended to increase (P = 0.081) when the cereal of the diet was ground with a 4-mm screen as compared with the average of the other diets. At 49 wk of age, the relative weight (% BW) of the GIT and gizzard was greater (P < 0.05) in hens fed barley than in hens fed corn. An increase in the screen size increased linearly the relative weight of the GIT (P = 0.089), gizzard (P < 0.01), and liver (P = 0.056). None of the other GIT traits or body measurements was affected by the main cereal or the screen size. In summary, barley can substitute up to 45% of the corn in diets for laying hens without any adverse effect on egg production. Therefore, the use of one or other cereal will depend on their relative cost. An increase in screen size improved gizzard development but had little effect on hen productivity. Within the range studied, the size of the screen used for grinding the cereal had little effect on hen productivity, although the use of a 4-mm screen might increase feed conversion ratio and gizzard development.

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