Egg Industry - May 2019 - 4

4 ❙ EggIndustry

7

cage-free layer nutrition
issues that require
attention

We must adjust our thinking on feeding hens housed in cage-free
systems to allow for their increased movement, social interaction and
exposure to environmental hazards.
IOANNIS MAVROMICHALIS

C

age free does not necessarily mean free-range
layers. Hens are still kept in-house on floors
with bedding material or in open aviaries
(multi-storied cages with open access).
In general, cage free means, as was the political motivation behind it, that hens are free to roam, wherever they
might be kept. This is in sharp contrast to caged layers
where movement was from limited to restricted. Some
claim it was the abuse of the caged system that led institutional intervention to improve bird welfare by giving them
more freedom to move. This extra freedom now given to
layers allows them to move around and interact with each
other and, of course, with their environment. Such new
way of life leads to three new, distinct patterns or behaviors, each associated with problems or challenges that we
sometimes can address through nutritional means.

These new issues are:
Increased movement. Free-roaming hens move
around, spending energy and putting pressure on
their bones, especially when they move/fly in a nonhorizontal direction in multi-storied aviaries. However,
all this extra exercise prevents older problems such as
cage fatigue and/or weak bones syndrome.
Social interaction. Cage-free hens also tend to
compete more for their daily ration, thus increasing

further energy needs. They also compete more for social
status within the flock, and in general lead more active, if
not interesting, lives. While this is considered ideal from
a social welfare position, such increased activity not only
increases their energy expenditure, but it also creates situations where hens receive less nutrition if their status is
not high enough to allow them sufficient space at the feed
trough. Here, we need to remind ourselves that layers are
not fed ad-libitum but on a restricted diet of about 100
grams feed per hen per day.
Contact with excreta. Cages offered a singular
benefit in that they prevented direct contact with
excreta. In systems where such contact can no longer
be prevented, as is the case in deep litter systems,
hens will often pick and consume excreta, for several
reasons. This increases their exposure to coccidia
that are endemic to the rearing of this species and
cannot be controlled without strong medical treatment.
Lamentably, such coccidiostatic drugs have now been
included in the global antibiotic reduction effort, making
gut health control a new problem for cage-free hens.
The above changes in the way we keep modern
layers have not negated the basics of their nutrition.
Instead, they have created a need to review and revise
such nutrition in order to be able to offer a diet that
partially alleviates some of these problems.
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Egg Industry - May 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Egg Industry - May 2019

Egg Industry - May 2019
7 cage-free layer nutrition issues that require attention
Feeding for success in cage-free egg production
Top Egg Company trends, statistics and predictions
Egg Industry - May 2019 - CT1
Egg Industry - May 2019 - CT2
Egg Industry - May 2019 - Egg Industry - May 2019
Egg Industry - May 2019 - Cover2
Egg Industry - May 2019 - CT3
Egg Industry - May 2019 - CT4
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 3
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 7 cage-free layer nutrition issues that require attention
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 5
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 6
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 7
Egg Industry - May 2019 - Feeding for success in cage-free egg production
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 9
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 10
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 11
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 12
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 13
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 14
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 15
Egg Industry - May 2019 - Top Egg Company trends, statistics and predictions
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 17
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 18
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 19
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 20
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 21
Egg Industry - May 2019 - 22
Egg Industry - May 2019 - Cover3
Egg Industry - May 2019 - Cover4
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