Impact of commercial housing systems and nutrient and energy intake on laying hen performance and egg quality parameters
The US egg industry is exploring alternative housing systems for laying hens. However, limited published research related to cage-free aviary systems and enriched colony cages exists related to production, egg quality, and hen nutrition. The laying hen's nutritional requirements and resulting productivity are well established with the conventional cage system, but diminutive research is available in regards to alternative housing systems. The restrictions exist with limited availability of alternative housing systems in research settings and the considerable expense for increased bird numbers in a replicate due to alternative housing system design. Therefore, the objective of the current study was to evaluate the impact of nutrient and energy intake on production and egg quality parameters from laying hens housed at a commercial facility. Lohmann LSL laying hens were housed in three systems: enriched colony cage, cage-free aviary, and conventional cage at a single commercial facility. Daily production records were collected along with dietary changes during 15 production periods (28-d each). Eggs were analyzed for shell strength, shell thickness, Haugh unit, vitelline membrane properties, and egg solids each period. An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) coupled with a principal components analysis (PCA) approach was utilized to assess the impact of nutritional changes on production parameters and monitored egg quality factors. The traits of hen-day production and mortality had a response only in the PCA 2 direction. This finds that as house temperature and Met intake increases, there is an inflection point at which hen-day egg production is negatively effected. Dietary changes more directly influenced shell parameters, vitelline membrane parameters, and egg total solids as opposed to laying hen housing system. Therefore, further research needs to be conducted in controlled research settings on laying hen nutrient and energy intake in the alternative housing systems and resulting impact on egg quality measures.
This article is from Poultry Science 94 (2015): 485–501, doi:10.3382/ps/peu078.