Hen behavior, nutrition research highlighted at Poultry Science Association meeting

This year’s Poultry Science Association meeting provided a nice blend of very basic research and applied research presented through technical symposiums, oral and poster presentations of original research. Starting with the "Fundamentals of Feed Efficiency: Animal to Genome" symposium, it became apparent that new technologies would be important at this meeting.

Michigan State University researchers found that hens in aviary systems spent most of their afternoon on the floor litter in Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply research.
Michigan State University researchers found that hens in aviary systems spent most of their afternoon on the floor litter in Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply research.

This year’s Poultry Science Association meeting provided a nice blend of very basic research and applied research presented through technical symposiums, oral and poster presentations of original research. Starting with the "Fundamentals of Feed Efficiency: Animal to Genome" symposium, it became apparent that new technologies would be important at this meeting.

Dr. Bottje, University of Arkansas, presented his research findings about how high feed efficiency chickens have less proton leaks in the cell mitochondria, which eventually translates to improved protein efficiency and turnover, resulting in improved feed efficiencies. Although his research model was the broiler chick, this would most likely translate to Leghorn strains as they have also been selected for improved feed efficiency.

Hen behavior

The session titled "Behavior and Well-Being" had several presentations relevant to the commercial egg industry. Researchers from Purdue University presented interesting information comparing foot health and bone mineral density (BMD) in hens housed in conventional cages versus furnished floor pens. They reported no differences in egg production, but they reported increased claw length and decreased BMD in caged hens and some indication of improved shell weight in floor pen hens. They also observed increased liver fat and abdominal fat pad in caged hens and related those observations to an increased risk of fatty liver syndrome.

Researchers from Michigan State University reported on movement activity of hens housed in an aviary system (as part of the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply research program). They reported that hens move in and out of the cage part of the aviary in the morning; piling behavior was worse in the “single row floor area”; the hens spent most of their time on the floor litter during the afternoon. The hens did utilize all space available. The project is continuing and will observe time spent in flight, perching and dust bathing next.

University of California, Davis researchers investigated the effects of different dust bathing substrates on mite infestations. The infestations got worse when hens dust bathed on AstroTurf plus feed as compared to dust bathing on AstroTurf alone, sand, or wire. Use of sand as a dust bathing substrate increased bouts of dust-bathing. The next step would be to treat the sand with an insecticide to test if that can help alleviate mite populations in colony cage systems.

Nutrient requirements

An entire symposium was dedicated to the topic of nutrient requirement evaluation and publications for poultry, which was basically a discussion of the need for a new National Research Council publication on Nutrient Requirements of Poultry. The last edition of this important resource was published in 1994. A lot has happened since then in terms of genetic improvements and new nutrition technologies. While genetic companies have helped fill the void for almost 20 years, there was consensus supporting an updated database of ingredient profiles and an improved and expanded section on modeling of nutrient requirements for poultry.

A dynamic model that would include both the economic and performance parameters effects on nutrient requirements seemed to be the most sensible direction for this conversation. However, modeling is complicated and expensive to do. The discussion will likely continue.

Salmonella enteritidis reduction

A multistate team of investigators presented their work in a symposium titled “Reducing Salmonella enteritidis  Contamination of Shell Eggs with an Integrated Research and Outreach Approach.” This project was supported by two USDA grants and included both research and extension (outreach) components. University of Connecticut faculty reported on their investigations into the use of plant derived antimicrobials to reduce transmission of Salmonella enteritidis . Types of oil tested included carvacrol and thymol (from Oregano); eugenol (from clove oil); trans-cinnamaldehyde (from cinnamon); and aprilyic acid (from coconut oil).

In a challenge study, investigators reported that all of the plant oils were capable of reducing Salmonella enteritidis attachment to oviduct epithelial cells by 40 percent to 60 percent. Contamination of eggshells with Salmonella enteritidis bacteria was reduced in 30 seconds after treatment with carvacrol and trans-cinnamaldehyde oil. Dr. Michael Darre, University of Connecticut, is field testing the plant-derived oils to test application and economic constraints. Dr. Paul Patterson, Penn State, presented information about the Pennsylvania Salmonella enteritidis Prevention Plan, which was a major component of the grant’s outreach program. 

Direct fed microbials

DuPont sponsored a seminar that presented new information about the synergistic effects of probiotics and supplemental enzymes. Dr. Luis Romero, DuPont researcher, said that direct fed microbials can act to protect the epithelial cell barrier function and mucous production. The researchers hypothesized that when the gut is healthier, supplemental enzymes are more effective and promote a combined effect for direct fed microbials and enzymes in a feeding program.

Just a final note: While the majority of the research papers were presented from research done with meat-type chickens, much of the basic information presented at this meeting can also benefit the laying hen. Abstracts of presentations from the meeting are available from www.poultryscience.org/psa13.

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