Benefits of non-feed withdrawal molting for layers
Molting programs that allow laying hens to eat during the stage where
egg production must be stopped could help ease animal welfare concerns
associated with induced molting that is traditionally achieved by depriving
birds of feed. The non-feed withdrawal approach can also help to ensure that
poultry products are free from bacteria, according to recent research.
Induced molting achieved by depriving birds of feed is a common practice for
egg producers because it minimises the costs associated with growing replacement
pullets and disposing spent flocks.
Achieving induced molting by
depriving birds of feed is simple to implement and consistently produces good
results in terms of second cycle egg production and egg quality.
In 1995, however, the USDA Animal & Plant Health
project reported that the percentage of eggs contaminated with Salmonella
enteritidis increased when flocks were molted by feed withdrawal. A subsequently
USDA study published in 2000 confirmed that isolation rates of SE were higher in
feed-withdrawal molted hens than in non-molted hens in commercial
Laboratory research showed that feed withdrawal makes hens
much more susceptible to colonisation by Salmonella bacteria. It can be
concluded from these studies that, in SE positive flocks, molting hens by feed
withdrawal can increase SE contamination of the house environment, increase the
number of hens infected with SE, and increase the percentage of eggs
contaminated with SE, at least for some time. Thus it is possible for induced
molting by feed withdrawal to increase risk of SE contaminated eggs entering the
human food supply.
Non-feed withdrawal molting does not appear to
entail the same risk. There is laboratory evidence that giving hens feed
throughout an induced molt protects them from susceptibility to SE infection.
Furthermore, a recent study on a commercial farm has affirmed the protective
effect of non-feed withdrawal molting against Salmonella colonisation of
This news is reason for producers to be encouraged as they
convert to non-feed withdrawal molting. Not only will the egg industry offer
greater animal welfare assurance by moving away from induced molting by feed
withdrawal, it also should be able to offer its customers a greater assurance of
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