Evaluation of the use of alfalfa diets as an alternative to feed deprivation for the induction of molt in commercial laying chickens
ABSTRACT Induced molting is process used by commercial producers to extend the reproductive life of a laying hen. Typically, producers deprive hens of feed for a period of 7-14 days while reducing the amount of light exposure to the hens. This allows for regression of the reproductive tract and for a second cycle of egg production to occur. However, induced molting by feed deprivation has been shown to increase the hen's risk of becoming infected with pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella. This increased risk could mean an increase in contaminated eggs or egg products, which causes concerns for public health. This combined with increasing pressure on egg producers from animal welfare organizations has prompted the investigation of diets that would provide available energy for the hens, while still inducing a molt that is economically advantageous to producers. Alfalfa, provided in meal or pelleted form, provides only 1/2 the metabolizable energy and 1/4 of the calcium required of a laying hen that is reproductively active. Due to the decrease in nutrients, alfalfa was investigated as an alternative to feed deprivation. Studies were conducted to assess egg quality, egg production, consumer acceptance, and hen physiology.