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South African Journal of Animal Science

On-line version ISSN 2221-4062
Print version ISSN 0375-1589

S. Afr. j. anim. sci. vol.49 n.5 Pretoria  2019 



Alchemilla vulgaris effects on egg production and quality expressed by heat-stressed quail during the late laying period



F. AkdemirI; A. KösemanII; I. ŞekerIII#

IDepartment of Nutrition, Faculty of Fisheries, Malatya Turgut Ozal University, 44210, Malatya, Turkey
IIDepartment of Crop and Animal Production, Akcadag Vocational School, Malatya Turgut Ozal University, 44210, Malatya, Turkey
IIIDepartment of Veterinary Zootechny, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Firat University, 23119, Elazig, Turkey




Potential for mitigating effects of heat stress through dietary Alchemilla vulgaris (AV) supplementation during the late laying period of Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica) were investigated. A 2 x 3 factorial arrangement of environmental temperature (ET) regimes and levels of dietary supplementation with AV (0%, 1%, and 3%) was used in a 75-day experiment. Twenty-five quail were randomly assigned to each treatment with five replicate cages of five birds. The birds were housed in temperature-controlled rooms at 22 ± 2 °C for 24 h/day (TN) or 34 ± 2 °C between 09h00 and 17h00 followed by 22 ± 2 °C for 16 h/day (HS). The interaction of ET and supplement regimes was rarely significant. In HS quail supplemented with 1% AV, egg production was reduced and FCR was increased compared with the other treatments. Dietary AV was found to reduce egg production in TN conditions, but 3% AV supplementation in the HS group prevented decreased egg production and improved FCR. Various indicators of egg quality were significantly affected by supplementation with AV at certain times during the experiment. Most effects of HS on egg quality were manifest in the first 15 days of ET regimes. Although HS significantly decreased eggshell weight until 31-45 days, AV supplementation improved it on the 45th day and then maintained it through the end of the experiment. Thus, AV may mitigate some effects of HS by partially preventing decreased egg production and increased FCR during the late laying period of Japanese quail.

Keywords: Coturnix coturnix japonica, flavonoids, supplement




Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica) are preferred as laboratory animal models owing to their productivity per unit area and the ease and low cost of their care and feeding (Ruskin, 1991; Baer et al., 2015). They consume less feed than other poultry species, and produce large eggs in proportion to their weight. Their age at first egg is 40-42 days, and they reach maximum production after 4-5 weeks (Reddish et al., 2003). Quail eggs are rich in protein, minerals and carbohydrates (Tunsaringkarn et al., 2013). Their positive contribution to human nutrition and health enhances their utility as a food of animal origin in an adequate balanced diet, particularly in poor communities (Ndlovu, 2010).

It is commonly thought that living conditions of human and animals will deteriorate due to the increase in global warming in the near future. Animal foods play an important role in human nutrition, and production under these conditions may not be sufficient to satisfy needs. For animals, the primary result of increased ETs is oxidative stress. Environmental temperatures that exceed the thermo-neutral zone (16-25 °C) of poultry cause significant yield (eggs and meat) losses, impaired egg quality, increased mortality rates, and low profitability (Lu et al., 2007; Sahin et al., 2008a, b; Akdemir et al., 2015). In recent years, there has been an increase in interest in the use of natural herbal additives to mitigate heat stress in the production of foods of animal origin (Leeson, 1986; Shane, 1988).

One of the perennial herbs is Alchemilla vulgaris (AV) or lady's mantle, a medicinal plant and member of the Rosaceae (rose) family, which has strong antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anticancer activities that have been attributed to their high levels of flavonoids, flavanol, tannins, anticianidins, saponines, and phenolic acid (Kiselova et al., 2006; Surai, 2013; Neagu et al., 2015). Flavonoids, which are regarded as the major ingredient of AV, have multiple biological influences, including antidiarrhoeal, antiarthritic, diuretic, depurative, and intestinal antiseptic effects, and improve menopausal distortions (Kahkonen et al., 1999; Galati & O'Brien, 2004; Spiridonov et al., 2005; Nair et al., 2006). These beneficial effects of flavonoids (9.8 mg/g dried whole plant) are attributed mainly to the activation of antioxidant enzymes (D'Agostino et al., 1998; Oktyabrskay et al., 2009), scavenging of free radicals (Hanasaki et al., 1994) and chelation of metal ions (Afanas'ev et al., 1989; Rice-Evans et al., 1997). Although there have been many studies on the use of AV in the field of biological and metabolic disturbances, no studies have been found on the effects of AV on the laying performance and egg quality of quails that have been exposed to high environmental temperatures. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to determine the effects of dietary AV supplementation on egg production and egg quality parameters during the late laying period of heat-stressed quail.


Materials and Methods

The experiment was approved (approval document no 2018/A-22) by the Committee on Animal Research at Inonu University, Malatya, Turkey. Birds (N = 150) at 20-weeks old were purchased from a commercial company (Insanay Kanatli Hayvan Uretim Paz. Tic. Inc., Elazig, Turkey). They had an initial average bodyweight of 197.8 ± 2.3 g (mean ± SE). The birds were randomly assigned to one of six treatments of 25 birds each. For each treatment there were five replicate cages of five birds per cage. The experiment spanned 75 days after an adaptation period of 10 days. The birds were housed in temperature-controlled rooms at 22 ± 2 °C for 24 h/day (Tn) or 34 ± 2 °C for 8 h/day (between 09h00 and 17h00), followed by 22 ± 2 °C for 16 h/day (HS) throughout the experiment. In both environmental conditions, the quail were fed one of three diets (Table 1), namely a basal diet or the basal diet supplemented with 1% or 3% of Aíchemiíía vuígaris in powder form (Altinterim Co., Elazig, Turkey). They were housed in cages that provided 100-120 cm2 floor area per bird. Birds were exposed to a diurnal cycle of 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness. Diets and fresh water were offered ad libitum throughout the experiment.

Chemical analyses of the basal diet for crude protein (988.05), ether extract (932.06), crude fibre (962.09), crude ash (936.07), Ca (968.08), and P (965.17) were done in triplicate using the methods described by the AOAC International (1990). Energy and amino acid (methionine and lysine) ingredients were computed from tabular values for the feedstuffs (Jurgens, 1996).

Feed consumption, egg production and egg weight were measured on the 25th, 50th and 75th days of the experiment. In addition, egg weight, yolk weight, yolk colour, shell weight, shell thickness and Haugh unit were measured on the 15th, 30th, 45th, 60th, and 75th days of the experiment using two random eggs from each of the five replicates (total 10 eggs) per treatment for all measurements. The Roche colour fan was used to determine the egg yolk colour according to the CIE standard colorimetric system (F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd., Basel, Switzerland). Haugh units were computed, following Eisen et al. (1962), as:

Haugh unit = 1001og(H + 7.57 - 1.7W037)

Where: H = albumen height (mm)

W = egg weight (g) after determining albumen height by using a micrometre (TLM-N1010, Saginomiya, Tokyo, Japan)

A dial pipe gauge (Mitutoyo, 0.01-20 mm, Tokyo, Japan) was used to measure the eggshell thickness. Measurements were taken at the three regions of the shell (air cell, equator and sharp end) and averaged.

Data were analysed by two-way ANOVA using the PROC GLM procedure of SPSS (version 22.0 for Windows, Chicago, Illinois, USA). The model was:

y¡jk = μ + E¡ + Sj + ExSij + eijk

where: y = response variable

μ = population mean

E = environmental temperature treatment

S = AV supplementation treatment e = residual error [NID (0, )]

Differences among the treatment means were evaluated by the Duncan multiple comparison test. Differences were declared significant at P <0.05.



Egg production, feed consumption, and egg weight were reduced, while FCR was increased for quail that were exposed to HS (Table 2). Supplementation with AV did not affect the performance of heat-stressed quail. However, egg production of the quail kept in TN conditions was reduced significantly by dietary AV supplementation (P <0.05). However, AV supplementation at 1% of the diet contributed to increased FCR, while AV supplementation at 3 % of diet significantly reduced FCR in the quails exposed to HS (P <0.05).

From day 1 to 15, the shell weight, egg yolk height, albumen width and egg yolk index were all changed as a result of the heat stress (P <0.05), while AV supplementation significantly changed the albumen and egg yolk height, albumen index and Haugh units (HU) (Table 3).

From 16 to 30 days, the egg weight, shell weight, albumen height and length and HU were significantly changed by heat stress (P <0.05), and shell weight was significantly changed by AV supplementation and ET x AV level interaction effects (Table 4).

Heat stress was of little consequence for any of the traits that characterized the eggs in days 31 to 45 (Table 5), but shell weight, albumen height and length, egg yolk diameter and index were significantly affected by AV supplementation (P <0.05).

Albumen height and HU were affected by heat stress (P <0.05) from days 46 to 60. Albumen height, egg yolk colour and HU were changed by AV supplementation (P <0.05) during this period as well. The interaction effect of ET x AV from 46 to 60 days affected HU (P <0.05, Table 6).

In the last 15 days, albumen length was changed with AV supplementation (P<0.05), and egg yolk colour was significantly affected by the ET x AV interaction (P<0.05, Table 7).



The present study was conducted to investigate the effects of supplemental AV on egg production and egg quality during the late laying period of quails that were exposed to high environmental temperature. In developing countries, eggs are one of the most consumed foods of animal origin because of their low cost, reliability and healthfulness (Neumann et al., 2002; Ndlovu, 2010).

It has been reported that high ambient temperature causes significant deterioration of egg quality and results in reduced performance in poultry production (Smith, 1974; Wolfenson et al., 1979; Emery et al., 1984; Yalcin et al., 2001; Sahin & Kucuk, 2003). Here, adaption of quail to heat stress is made apparent by the lack of significant effects that were observed after the initial 15 days.

Dietary AV is thought to have huge potential to improve egg laying performance and indicators of egg quality. Indeed, in addition to those fundamental effects of dietary AV, it is reported that there are significant therapeutic roles in female reproduction problems (Spiridonov et al., 2005; Saric-Kundalic et al., 2011). In contrast to the results of Saric-Kundalic et al. (2011), dietary supplementation with AV did not increase the laying performance of quail reared at TN conditions. In agreement with the literature, lower egg production, feed consumption, and egg weight and increased FCR were observed for quail that were exposed to HS. In the present study, dietary AV was found to reduce egg production in TN conditions. However, at 3% of the diet, AV supplementation of quail that were housed under HS conditions prevented the reduced egg production and FCR that were observed under TN conditions.

To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is the first study to examine the effect of dietary AV on laying performance in the late laying period of heat-stressed quails. The present results in heat-stress quail are thought to be related to the effects of high antioxidant ingredients such as flavonoids (D'Agostino et al., 1998) that are found in AV. It has been shown that flavonoids exhibit antioxidant effects (Jovanovic et al., 1994; Fraga, 2010), and improve the performance of stressed animals (Ting et al., 2011; Surai, 2013). This may be because of the improved efficacy of antioxidant agents in challenging conditions, as postulated by Akbarian et al. (2016). Liu et al. (2013, 2014) and Iskender et al. (2017) found similar results to those of the present study, in which egg weight and feed intake were not changed by dietary flavonoids in laying hens housed under TN conditions. In contrast, it has been found that supplementation with the flavonoid quercetin reduced FCR and increased egg quality and production in a dose-dependent manner during the late laying period (Liu et al., 2013). It is emphasized that flavonoids, which have no effect on birds that are housed under TN conditions, may show antioxidant activity in the presence of a stressor such as heat and that the response may be dose dependent (Galati & O'Brien, 2004; Akbarian et al., 2016; Iskender et al., 2017).

It is generally known that performance and egg quality parameters of birds deteriorate during the late laying period (Rodriguez-Navarro et al., 2002). This deterioration may be worsened by oxidative stress that arises from high environmental temperatures. In the present study, various indicators indicated a degradation of egg quality over time in quail that were housed in HS conditions. Numerous studies have been conducted to examine the potential for dietary supplementation to mitigate effects of heat stress in hens (Sahin & Kucuk, 2003). Dietary supplementation with AV has also shown a lack of effect on egg quality of various flavonoid compounds (hesperidin, naringin and quercetin) supplemented to layers that are reared under TN conditions (Yildiz et al., 2006; Liu et al., 2014; Iskender et al., 2017).

Although HS significantly reduced eggshell weight until day 45, dietary supplementation with AV improved it afterwards and it was maintained throughout the remainder of the present experiment. In agreement with the present data, other researchers observed no change in the eggshell thickness and eggshell strength because of dietary supplementation with flavonoids such as hesperidin, naringin and quercetin (Lien et al., 2008; Ting et al., 2011; Goliomytis et al., 2014; Iskender et al., 2017). However, there have been observations of increased eggshell thickness and strength owing to such supplementation of quail (Ni et al., 2007; Sahin et al., 2007; Liu et al., 2013). Heat stress increases the blood pH and causes respiratory alkalosis, resulting in decreased calcium (Ca) absorption and less effective use of it (Sahin & Kucuk, 2003; Franco-Jimenes et al., 2007; Ma et al., 2014). Fouad et al. (2016) reported that some phytochemicals that have antioxidant and oestrogenic properties, such as flavonoids, may improve the bioavailability of Ca and phosphorus (P) and improve eggshell formation, thereby enhancing the production of normal quality eggs under HS. However, no effects of supplementation with AV on shell thickness and shell strength were observed in this study. Cassidy (2003) also stated that because of low amounts of oestrogen flavonoids prevent the absorption and use of Ca by executing an antagonistic activity during the late laying period.



In conclusion, the present study indicated that the high environmental temperature initially caused negative effects on egg production and egg quality, whereas dietary AV supplementation at 3% levels partially offset these effects in the late laying period of heat-stressed quails. Thus, supplementation with AV may be useful to at least partially prevent the decrease in egg production and the deterioration in egg quality during the late laying period of heat-stressed quails. However, further studies are needed to explain the effects of dietary AV on performance traits that were not measured in the present study and on egg quality.



The authors would like to thank O. Ordu and Y.S. Õzdemir for their contributions to the current study.

Authors' Contributions

IS and AK performed the project and designed the study, AK and FA performed the experiments, AK and FA collected the samples and analysed them, IS did the statistical analysis, and FA wrote the paper.

Conflict of Interest Declaration

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.



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Received 29 March 2019
Accepted 5 July 2019
First published online 14 October 2019



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