Estimating energy utilization in laying hens: what are the best response criteria?

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An experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects of varying dietary energy on the performance and energy storage in laying hens from 36 to 52 wk of age. A total of 252 Hy-Line W-36 laying hens were housed in cages with 3 birds per cage and 12 replicate cages per treatment. Birds were control fed 1 of 7 experimental diets ranging in dietary energy from 2,750 to 3,050 kcal/kg with a 50 kcal/kg difference among each of the diets. Egg production, energy intake, feed intake, egg weight, egg mass, and feed efficiency were calculated every 2 wk so that performance data could be analyzed every 2 wk using repeated measures analysis. Hens were weighed every 4 wk for repeated measures analysis and carcass total, lean, and fat mass were determined at 52 wk using dual X-ray absorptiometry. Correlations between dietary energy and energy intake with performance parameters, and body composition were generated. Dietary energy (kcal/kg) was significantly correlated with all performance parameters except hen housed egg production (HHEP; P = 0.07) and lean carcass mass (P = 0.60). For dietary energy, the highest correlations were total carcass mass (r = 0.60) and carcass fat mass (r = 0.54). Energy intake (kcal/d) was significantly correlated with all performance parameters except feed intake (P = 0.18). The highest correlations were between energy intake and total carcass mass (r = 0.63) or body weight (r = 0.51). These results suggest that dietary energy has a more pronounced effect on body mass and fatty tissue over the short run (16-wk period) before direct performance responses are observed. Therefore, hen body weight and composition can be used as a more sensitive measurement of shorter-term hen energy status than egg production or feed efficiency.



body composition, energy intake, fat mass, egg production, laying hen