The use of alternative, often bulky ingredients is becoming widespread in poultry diets as the industry seeks to reduce its economic and environmental costs. Consequently, there is an increased need to accurately predict the performance of birds given such diets and identify their maximum capacity for bulk. We offered diets diluted with a range of bulky ingredients to male Ross 308 broilers to assess their capacity for bulk and identify a bulk characteristic responsible for limiting intake. Four hundred ninety-five day-old broilers allocated into 45 pens, were offered a common starter diet until day (d) 7, and 1 of 9 grower diets from d 8 to 29 (Period 1). Each of the grower diets was diluted with either 30 or 60% of oat hulls (OH), wheat bran (WB), or grass meal (GM), or a mixture of 2 bulky ingredients at an inclusion level of 30% each (OHWB, OHGM, WBGM). From d 29 to 43 (Period 2), all birds were offered the bulkiest diet (GM60). A number of bulk characteristics were measured on the diets. Feed intake was measured daily, and birds were dissected on d 29 and 43 for organ and carcass measurements. During d 8 to 14 diet water-holding capacity (WHC) was more consistent in predicting feed intake when scaled per unit of body weight than any other bulk characteristic. However, this was no longer the case during d 15 to 28. In Period 2, the response and adaptation to the bulkiest diet was determined by previous experience to bulk. Birds offered a bulkier diet during Period 1, were better able to adapt the size of their digestive organs and increase scaled feed intake, such that there were no differences between these birds and those offered the GM60; the converse was the case for birds on the least bulky diets. We conclude that WHC is able to predict maximum intake on bulky diets in unadapted birds. Adaptation to bulky diets can be very fast, so that their high bulk content no longer limits feed intake and performance.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was in part supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in the form of a Doctorate studentship to J.T., and in part by the Feed-A-Gene Project. Feed-A-Gene has received funding from the European Union's H2020 Programme under grant agreement no 6336531 .
© 2021 The Authors
- feed intake
- water holding capacity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology