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Effect of whole wheat feeding in birds

A study was carried out to investigate the effects of feeding whole wheat either through a mixed feeding (MF) or free choice feeding (FCF) system on the performance, digestive tract development and carcass traits of broiler chickens.

The following three treatments, based on wheat and soybean meal, were employed: GW, ground-wheat diet with 600–690 g wheat/kg; MF, GW diet with 490–500 g wheat/kg and 100–200 g whole wheat/kg; and FCF, whole wheat and a protein concentrate offered in separate feeders.

Each diet was fed to six pens of 36 birds each from day 7 to 35 post-hatch. Over the 7–35-day trial period, no differences (P>0.05) were observed between the weight gain, feed intake and feed per gain of broilers receiving the GW and MF treatments.

Results
Birds receiving the FCF treatment had the lowest (P<0.05) weight gain and feed intake, and the highest (P<0.05) feed per gain. During week 1 of the trial, the protein concentrate was consumed more than the whole wheat (0.69 vs. 0.31) in the FCF treatment, resulting in the amount of concentrate offered being restricted during subsequent weeks. Over the trial period, the average consumption of protein concentrate remained high (0.56 of the total intake). Both whole-wheat treatments increased (P<0.05) the relative gizzard weights.

Factors that affect diet selection such as learning and previous experience, visual differences between the foods, texture and flavour of the food, and palatability may explain the lower whole-wheat intake in the FCF treatment. In this study, whole wheat was introduced only on day 7 and it is possible that the birds may have to be trained to experience choice feeding from the first week of life. However, the present results suggest that FCF may not be an appropriate feeding system for fast growing modern broilers.

The research was carried out by A.M. Amerah from the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, Massey University and V. Ravindran.

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