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The effects of a reduced balanced protein diet on litter moisture, pododermatitis and feather condition of female broiler breeders over three generations

  • C. Li (a1), J. Lesuisse (a1), S. Schallier (a1), W. Clímaco (a1), Y. Wang (a1), A. Bautil (a1), N. Everaert (a2) and J. Buyse (a1)...


Protein content reduction in broiler breeder diets has been increasingly investigated. However, broiler breeders reared on low protein diets are characterized by a deterioration of the feather condition. Furthermore, polydipsia induced by controlled feed intake increases litter moisture and as a consequence pododermatitis. This project aimed to study the litter moisture, pododermatitis and feather condition of breeders fed with a 25% reduced balanced protein (RP) diet during the rearing and laying period over three successive generations. The experiment started with two treatments for the F0 generation: control (C) group fed with standard C diets and RP group fed with RP diets. The female F0-progeny of each treatment was divided into the two dietary treatments as well, resulting in four treatments for the F1 generation: C/C, C/RP, RP/C and RP/RP (breeder feed in F0/F1 generation). The RP diet fed breeders received on average 10% more feed than C diet fed breeders to achieve the same target BW. The female F1-progeny of each treatment were all fed with C diets which resulted in four treatments for the F2 generation: C/C/C, C/RP/C, RP/C/C and RP/RP/C (breeder feed in F0/F1/F2 generation). Litter moisture, footpad and hock dermatitis were recorded at regular intervals throughout the experimental period in all three generations. For the F0 and F1 generation, the pens of breeders receiving C diets had significantly higher litter moisture than the RP diets fed groups (P<0.05), resulting in an elevated footpad dermatitis occurrence (FDO) (P<0.05). No difference was found in the F2 generation. The feather condition was scored during the laying period for each generation. F0 and F1 breeders reared on the RP diets had poorer feather condition than those receiving the C diets (P<0.05). The C/RP breeders had a significantly poorer feather condition than RP/RP breeders (P<0.05). For the F2 generation, RP/RP/C breeders had a significantly better feather condition compared with the other three groups (P<0.05). The RP/C/C breeders were significantly better feathered than C/C/C breeders (P<0.05). In conclusion, providing RP diets to broiler breeders improved litter condition and hence reduced FDO whereas impaired feather condition. Furthermore, positive transgenerational effects of the maternal RP diets on the feather condition may be inferred, hence potentially altering the welfare status.


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Present address: Zoothecny – UFMG, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Avenida Antonio Carlos, 6627, Escola de Veterinaria, 31270-901 Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.



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