Fundamental Principles Underlying Feed Restriction

The control of growth rate in broiler breeder males and females is one of the most important management tools to ensure the best reproductive performance.1-1-1 In females, three key points are essential. First, the rate of growth must be predetermined so that the desired body weight is attained a few weeks before onset of lay. The desired body weight is established by giving the birds a certain amount of food, which is at some ages more than 50% restriction compared to their unrestricted counterparts (Fig. 1). Second, it is important to synchronize growth and sexual maturity. Reaching sexual maturity is not accomplished just by gaining weight, but the carcass, muscle, and non-reproductive visceral tissues must have grown prior to the onset of the development of the reproductive tissue. Third, an accurate feeding, based on production rate, is necessary at the start of and throughout the laying period.[2]

Not only the level, but also the timing and duration of feed restriction could be important in controlling reproductive performance in broiler breeder females. Results from Bruggeman et al.[3] have shown the existence of critical periods during rearing in which feeding levels have repercussions on different reproductive parameters (Fig. 2). Male broiler breeders that have a very high growth potential also have to follow prescribed growth curves, taking into account the size and maturity of the females at the age of sexual maturity in order to optimize mating and to reduce aggressive behavior toward the females. It is recommended to rear the male broiler breeders separately from the females to control their feed intake. A rearing program focused on the proper weight difference between males and females and an adequate social structure in the flock is essential for optimal performance.

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