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Feeding Hens with Lucerne Boosts Egg Yolk Quality

31 July 2014, at 8:42am

ITALY - Feeding a low-fibre alfalfa meal in the layer diet had no effect on egg production but had a number of beneficial effects on egg quality, researchers in Bari report.

Partially replacing conventional soybean meal as the protein source with low-fibre alfalfa meal (lucerne meal) in the laying-hen diet can positively influence yolk quality without adversely affecting productive traits.

That is the conclusion of V. Laudadio and colleagues at the University of Bari "Aldo Moro" from a recent study, which they reported in Poultry Science.

This study was designed to determine the effects on laying performance and egg quality resulting from partial substitution of soybean meal (SBM) with low-fibre alfalfa (LFA; Medicago sativa L.) meal in the diet of early-phase laying hens.

ISA Brown layers, 18 weeks of age, were randomly allocated to two dietary treatments and fed for 10 weeks.

The hens were fed two wheat middling–based diets: a control diet, which contained soybean meal (15 per cent of diet), and a test diet containing LFA (15 per cent of diet) as the main protein source. The LFA was obtained by a combination of sieving and air-classification processes.

Feed intake was recorded daily, and egg production was calculated on a hen-day basis; eggs from each group were weekly collected to evaluate egg components and quality.

The partial substitution of soybean meal with LFA had no adverse effect on growth performance of early-phase laying hens, the researchers found.

Egg production and none of the egg-quality traits examined were influenced by dietary treatment, except for yolk colour (P<0.001) and yolk percentage (P<0.05). Yolk cholesterol and β-carotene contents (P<0.001) were improved in hens fed the LFA diet. Including LFA increased serum β-carotene and reduced serum cholesterol concentrations (P<0.001).


Laudadio V., E. Ceci, N.M.B. Lastella, M. Introna and V. Tufarelli. 2014. Low-fiber alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) meal in the laying hen diet: Effects on productive traits and egg quality. Poultry Science. 93(7):1868-1874. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03831

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You can view the full report (fee payable) by clicking here.

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