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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Athens, Georgia » U.S. National Poultry Research Center » ESQRU » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #357765

Research Project: Evaluation of Management of Laying Hens and Housing Systems to Control Salmonella and Other Pathogenic Infections, Egg Contamination, and Product Quality

Location: ESQRU

Title: Production and well-being resulting from delayed movement of pullets to the hen facility.

Author
item KARCHER, DARRIN - Purdue University
item Jones, Deana
item ROBINSON, CARA - Michigan State University
item EBERLE-KRISH, KRISTA - North Carolina State University
item Gast, Richard
item ANDERSON, KENNETH - North Carolina State University

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Poultry Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/15/2018
Publication Date: 6/1/2019
Citation: Karcher, D.M., Jones, D.R., Robinson, C.I., Eberle-Krish, K., Gast, R.K., Anderson, K. 2019. Production and well-being resulting from delayed movement of pullets to the hen facility. Journal of Applied Poultry Research. 28(2):278-289.

Interpretive Summary: The laying hen and turkey industries faced a devastating disease outbreak that began in December 2014. Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) had dramatic impacts on the U.S. economy from a domestic supply and international export perspective . United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) reported that 223 cases of HPAI were confirmed killing approximately 48 million birds. Since the consumer egg supply was diminished with the depopulation of almost 40 million laying hens and pullets, there were increased shell egg prices while food service organizations and food manufacturers struggled to find alternatives to limited egg products. The impact was felt for several years before an equilibrium was reestablished with the repopulation of the laying hen facilities. An early production molt can be an effective way to prolong holding pullets in a rearing system during a quarantine situation allowing for some economic recovery compared to destroying healthy pullets. For cage-free aviary hens, early molted birds lagged behind in production compared to control birds post molt. Egg weight and egg components were not impacted by an early production molt. Bird welfare was minimally impacted with most evident issues related to head feathering and comb pecking wounds. The use of an early production molt (10 % production) with cage-free aviary reared pullets is an viable option for sustaining a flock through a quarantine period during an animal disease outbreak.

Technical Abstract: The laying hen and turkey industries faced a devastating disease outbreak that began in December 2014. Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) had dramatic impacts on the U.S. economy from a domestic supply and international export perspective . The impact was felt for several years before an equilibrium was reestablished with the repopulation of the laying hen facilities. The overall objective was to evaluate an early production molt as a way to extend the pullet phase in the grow-out house in a disease outbreak documenting pullet well-being and subsequent laying hen performance. The molted hens had a lower percent hen-day egg production than the control hens (initially placed in the cage-free aviary system and not molted). The weight of eggs produced and the percentages of shell, yolk, and albumen within an egg were not effected by the early production molt. There were minimal differences in hen welfare with molted hens having a significantly higher occurrence of minor comb pecking wounds immediately after the molt compared to the non-molted hens. There was no difference in comb pecking wounds amongst the treatments during the subsequent observation. The molted hens had a significantly higher occurrence of feather loss associated with the head compared to control hens at the end of the study. Of the full complement of welfare quality assessment measurements conducted, no other differences amongst treatments were found. During a quarantine period, such as an animal disease outbreak, pullets could be held in the pullet rearing environment by inducing a non-feed withdrawal molt before moving to cage-free aviary production without impairing overall animal well-being and subsequent egg production.