Effect of different split-feeding treatments on performance, egg quality, and bone quality of individually housed aged laying hens

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Abstract

In order to try to combat the effect of age on eggshell quality in aged laying hens, 5 split-feeding treatments were compared with conventional feeding between 75 and 92 wk of age. In the conventional treatment (T1), the same morning (M) and afternoon (A) diet was fed containing fine (FL) and coarse (CL) limestone at a 50:50 ratio. In the split treatments, the ratio of FL and CL was 50:50 or 30:70, and time of administration (M/A) differed. The following treatments were given: T2 = 50FL-M:50CL-A, T3 = 50CL-M:50FL-A, T4 = 30FL-M:20FL-A+50CL-A, T5 = 30FL-M:70CL-A, and T6 = 0M:30FL-A+70CL-A. A total of 12 individually housed Dekalb white hens was used per treatment. Feed intake, nutrient intake, and laying % was lower in T1 compared to all split treatments (P ≤ 0.001). Due to this low performance in T1, split feeding could not be compared to the conventional system in this trial. By the end of the trial, eggshell quality was improved in T1 as a result of low laying % and more frequent and longer laying pauses. In the split treatments, laying % and feed intake were similar, except in T3 in which a decrease was observed after 81 wk (P ≤ 0.05). Egg weight was higher in T5 and T6 due to higher total and morning protein intake compared to T3 (P ≤ 0.05). Feeding only 50FL-A in T3 not only resulted in lower performance but also in consistently lower shell thickness, indicating a negative effect of suboptimal limestone supplementation. In the split-feeding system, the most optimal combination of morning and afternoon diet was a morning diet with only FL and an afternoon diet with only CL (T2), which both provided ˜50% of the total daily Ca intake. Shell breaking strength and dynamic stiffness could be maintained on this diet between 75 and 92 weeks. Decreasing the amount of Ca in the morning and increasing it in the afternoon did not improve shell quality traits. Bone quality was not affected by limestone particle size or inclusion level in the split-feeding system.

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