South African Journal of Animal Science
On-line version ISSN 2221-4062
Print version ISSN 0375-1589
The study was conducted to determine the extent to which broiler breeder hens could make use of excess body lipid reserves as a means of maintaining laying performance. The experiment was divided into two phases. In the first phase, the birds aged 37 weeks were allocated one of four daily allowances: 160, 175, 190 or 205 g of a commercial broiler breeder feed for a period of four weeks in order to achieve four levels of fatness in the hens. During the second phase, also lasting four weeks, the birds were given a high protein, low energy feed at three rates of allocation (120, 100 or 80 g/hen d). Performance was higher over the final two weeks of Phase 2 when birds were fed 120 g/d in this period, with production tending to decrease as allocations increased in Phase 1, although this was not significant. The same pattern of response was seen in birds given 100 g/d in the second phase of the trial, i.e. excessive lipid reserves tended to be detrimental to performance in these two treatments. However, where 80 g was allocated daily in Phase 2 this was clearly insufficient to sustain performance, but in this case egg production was considerably higher in birds that had been given larger amounts of food in Phase 1, and which could therefore draw on body lipid reserves as a source of energy. Rate of lay increased by 3.5% and egg output by 4.0 g/d for every additional 10 g of food given in Phase 1, as a result of lipid reserves having been utilised when daily food intake was severely depressed. Egg weight was not affected by any of the feed allocations until the last two weeks of the trial when birds fed 80 g/d started laying smaller eggs. Broiler breeders are capable of maintaining their egg production for short periods at an energy intake that is much lower than is recommended and this has implications when modelling the effect of food composition on performance of broiler breeder hens.
Keywords : Lipid reserves; breeders; laying period.