Is Broiler Breeder Welfare Improved by Using Qualitative Rather Than Quantitative Food Restriction to Limit Growth Rate?
Possible welfare benefits of qualitative rather than quantitative food restriction were investigated with growing female broiler breeder chickens (Ross 1). In Experiment 1, body-weight gains from 2 to 6 weeks of age were compared among different diet dilution, appetite suppression and low protein treatments, with free access to food at all times, to identify qualitative treatments causing weight gains similar to that recommended in the Ross 1 Parent Stock Management Manual. Based on these results, four diet dilution (400g kg−1 unmolassed sugar-beet pulp, 300 and 600g kg−1 oat hulls, 500g kg−1 softwood sawdust) and one appetite suppression (50g kg−1 calcium propionate) treatments were compared with two quantitative restriction (the recommended daily ration and twice that amount) and one ad libitum control treatments, from 2 to 10 weeks of age, in Experiment 2. As well as growth, food intake, excreta production and digestibility, measurements were also made of behaviour and blood indices of stress. Several conclusions were drawn. Different methods of qualitative food restriction can be used to control growth rate within desired limits. Problems with these methods include reduced uniformity in weight gain, increased excreta production and/or increased cost. Although they appear to suppress abnormal oral behaviours, they do not alter the increased general activity which is correlated with suppression of growth rate, and which may more accurately reflect associated hunger. Suppression of abnormal oral behaviours may only rarely correspond with reduction in blood indices of stress, and so cannot be taken to indicate improved welfare. Some of these methods can add to physiological stress. Finally, there was insufficient evidence of improved welfare, based on both behavioural and physiological criteria, to justify advocating the suitability of airy of these methods for commercial use.
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