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ARS Home » Plains Area » College Station, Texas » Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center » Food and Feed Safety Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #206297

Title: Immunological cell and serum metabolite response of sixty-week old commercial laying hens to an alfalfa meal molt diet

item Moore, Randle
item KIM, W
item HOWARD, Z
item McReynolds, Jackson
item Byrd Ii, James - Allen
item KUBENA, L

Submitted to: Bioresource Technology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/23/2006
Publication Date: 11/5/2007
Citation: Landers, K.L., Moore, R.W., Dunkley, C.S., Herrera, P., Kim, W.K., Landers, D.A., Howard, Z.R., McReynolds, J.L., Byrd II, J.A., Kubena, L.F. 2007. Immunological cell and serum metabolite response of 60-week-old commercial laying hens to an alfalfa meal molt diet. Bioresource Technology. 99(3):604-608.

Interpretive Summary: Salmonella has been shown to cause health problems in humans that eat adulterated poultry products. There is an increased risk of eggs becoming contaminated with Salmonella after molting. In this study, we looked at an alfalfa diet in combination with a prebiotic to determine the effects of fermentation in the ceca of chickens. In this study many indicators of fermentation such as volatile fatty acids were increased. The data suggest that increased fermentation can be obtained through the addition of a prebiotic. These findings will help the egg industry understand the benefits of feeding a supplemental diet and prebiotic during a molt.

Technical Abstract: The practice of inducing molt in commercial poultry involves light restriction, feed removal, and limiting water for five to fourteen days. Many animal welfare groups are concerned about this issue due to the stresses that feed and water deprivation cause. With this in mind, alternative diets have been developed to produce similar molting effects as that of feed deprivation. Alfalfa, which largely consists of insoluble fiber, can be used as a molting diet. In this study, an induced molting trial was conducted. Heterophil and lymphocyte counts, serum chemistry, and organ weight parameters were evaluated in hens that were deprived of feed or fed alfalfa during a nine day induced molt. Full-fed hens were used as the control. Blood was taken on days 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 for blood chemistry analysis and for blood smears. Serum parameters assessed were: calcium, magnesium, glucose, total protein, ketone bodies, uric acid, and cholesterol. White blood cells were counted and categorized by cell type. On the ninth day of the trial, the hens were euthanized and the liver, spleen, heart, intestine, pancreas, ovary, oviduct, and kidney were collected and weighted. Hens molted with alfalfa or by feed deprivation had significantly higher levels of ketone bodies compared to the full-fed hens. Hen molted by either alfalfa or feed deprivation exhibited significantly lower concentrations of calcium and magnesium during the course of the molting trial. A significant increase in cholesterol was observed in the molted hens when compared to the non-molted hens. Uric acid levels were seen to decrease in the hen fed alfalfa and those feed deprived compared to the controls; however the difference was significant only in the feed deprived hens. The hens molted by both methods exhibited significant reductions in the weights of ovary, oviduct, and pancreas as compared to the non-molted hens. In all birds tested there was an observable increase in the percentage of heterophils and a reduction of lymphocytes. When the H:L was computed, a significant increase was only seen in the feed deprived hens. Based on reproductive organ weight loss and changes in serum parameters (ketone bodies, calcium, magnesium, and cholesterol) seen with both molting methods, the data suggest that the hens molted with alfalfa were comparable to hens molted by feed deprivation.