Molt performance and bone density of cortical, medullary, and cancellous bone in laying hens during feed restriction or alfalfa-based feed molt. Academic Article uri icon


  • A study was conducted to evaluate the effects of alfalfa-based molt diets on molting performance and bone qualities. A total of 36 Single Comb White Leghorn hens were used for the study. There were 6 treatments: pretrial control (PC), fully fed (FF), feed withdrawal (FW), 90% alfalfa:10% layer ration (A90), 80% alfalfa:20% layer ration (A80), and 70% alfalfa:30% layer ration (A70). For the PC treatment, hens were euthanized by CO(2) gas, and bones were collected before molt was initiated. At the end of the 9-d molt period, hens were euthanized, and femurs and tibias were collected to evaluate bone qualities by peripheral quantitative computed tomography, mechanical testing, and conventional ash weights. The hens fed alfalfa-based molt diets and FW stopped laying eggs within 5 d after molt started, and all hens in these groups had reduced ovary weights compared with those of the FF hens. In the FW and A90 groups, total femur volumetric bone mineral densities (vBMD) at the midshaft were significantly lower, but those of the A80 and A70 groups were not significantly different from the values for the PC and FF hens. In cortical bone density, the midshaft tibial vBMD were significantly higher for FF and A70 hens than for PC hens. The medullary bone densities at the midshaft femur or tibia of the FW, A90, A80, and A70 hens were reduced compared with those of the PC hens. Femur cancellous densities at the distal femur for the FW and A90 hens were significantly reduced compared with those of the PC and FF hens. The FW, A80, and A70 hens yielded significantly higher elastic moduli, and the A80 hens had higher ultimate stress compared with the PC hens, suggesting that the mechanical integrity of the midshaft bone was maintained even though the medullary vBMD was reduced. These results suggest that alfalfa-based molt diets exhibit molt performance similar to FW, that medullary and cancellous bones are labile bone compartments during molting, and that alfalfa-based molt diets may be beneficial to maintain the mechanical properties of bones during molt.

published proceedings

  • Poult Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Kim, W. K., Donalson, L. M., Bloomfield, S. A., Hogan, H. A., Kubena, L. F., Nisbet, D. J., & Ricke, S. C.

citation count

  • 25

complete list of authors

  • Kim, WK||Donalson, LM||Bloomfield, SA||Hogan, HA||Kubena, LF||Nisbet, DJ||Ricke, SC

publication date

  • September 2007