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Broilers & Layers / Poultry Nutrition / Poultry Breeding & Genetics
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on November 5, 2017

Nutrition, feeding issues impact broiler breeder feathering

Industry professional discusses how uniformity of feed in broiler breeder females helps pullets in feathering and fertility

Maintaining the feather covering of broiler breeder females can be a challenging management task in the broiler breeder operation but is essential to achieving mating in the flocks and the fertility of the hatching eggs produced.

 Read the entire report about broiler breeder feathering in the November issue of WATT PoultryUSA.

An inadequate amount of feather coverage can cause a decline in fertility, a loss of body weight and poor feed conversion. Although in some instances it can be difficult to determine the cause of broiler feather loss, there are management practices that can be used to avoid the unfortunate situation, explained Jeanna Wilson, professor of poultry science at the University of Georgia.

Genetic selection

Both genetic selection and feeding programs have contributed to the problems associated with feather loss. They have also caused producers to experience lower egg production and an increase in hen mortality. Feed restriction, however, has reduced some of the negative effects that are thought to be genetically related. Implementing various feeding programs may have positive or negative effects depending on an operation’s management system, Wilson noted.

Influences of feathering

Low dietary protein levels may affect feathering. Micronutrients because of differences in feed intake also have a negative effect on feathering, therefore, uniformity of feeding is important. Uniformity is especially important in early development because that’s when the most important set of feathers are made, Wilson suggested. “There are lots of variation in the studies out there regarding low protein diets,” she said.

Recent studies with broiler breeders indicated that low protein levels in pullet diets can cause poor feather cover, however, it does not always cause feathering issues. Other studies show that high energy diets in laying caused poorer feather cover when compared to standard energy diets. Hens got less feed volume, took less time to eat and spent more time sitting, Wilson explained. Poor ingredient quality may also add to feathering issues, she added.

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