Early Feed Restriction Can Affect the Behavior and Welfare of Mule Ducks
Keywords:Behavior, Ducks, Feeding regime, Performance, Welfare.
The analysis of feeding behavior is crucial for animal farming and output. This study aimed to determine the influence of the feeding regime on behavior, welfare indices, as well as growth performance of Mule ducks. The study employed 48 one-day-old Mule ducklings, each wing labelled and housed in two groups of 24 ducklings. The first group received ad libitum feed while the second group received a feed restriction (FR) regime. The feed restriction caused increased feeding, gentle and severe feather pecking, and decreased standing, resting, and preening. At 7 weeks of age, the mean walking score differed between the ad libitum and limited feed groups, as did the mean standing score at 5 and 7 weeks. The feather score changed significantly with age (P0<001). The cleanliness of the nostrils decreased with age, whereas scores for the neck and rump increased. Most duck welfare measures concerning cleanliness and gait have decreased in the feed restriction group, except for nostrils. The breast and undertail scores statistically increased at 3–7 weeks, then fell from 5 to 7 weeks. The number of ducks with 1 and 2 gait scores increased with age, whereas ducks with the same footpad scores decreased. Most of the ducks had a feather quality score of zero, whereas ducks with a score of one increased with increasing age, but none of them had a head feather quality score of two at any age. In terms of cleanliness, As the ducks aged, the proportion of ducks scoring 1 increased, with the exception of nostrils and neck, where the proportion of ducks scoring 1 fell from 5 to 7 weeks. Except for nostril cleanliness and gait, the feed restriction group had significantly lower welfare scores. At 2–4 weeks of age, the feed restriction group had a considerably greater mean body weight than the ad libitum group, but at 5–7 weeks, the difference was reversed. At all ages, except for two weeks, the feed restriction group's mean body weight gain was lower than the open food access group's at all ages. On average, the feed conversion ratio was higher in the restricted group at 4 weeks than at 3, 5, and 7 weeks. A small feed restriction may help animals gain weight and have a good feed conversion ratio, which helps keep feed costs down and prevent metabolic syndrome. It is possible to set up a feed restriction plan that will improve ducks' welfare but not hurt their health scores.
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