Growth performance and carcass characteristics of three chicken strains in response to incremental levels of dietary Moringa oleifera leaf meal
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A 90-day feeding trial was conducted to determine the effect of Moringa oleifera leaf meal supplementation on growth performance and carcass characteristics of three chicken strains (male and female) that are normally reared under extensive production systems in South Africa. Moringa leaves were harvested by hand, air-dried and milled into M. oleifera leaf meal (MOLM). The MOLM was chemically analysed and used to dilute a commercial broiler finisher diet at 0 (MOLM0), 25 (MOLM25), 50 (MOLM50), and 100 (MOLM100) g/kg DM, producing four dietary treatments. Two hundred and sixteen (216) Potchefstroom Koekoek (PK), Ovambo (OV) and Black Australorp (BA) chickens were raised on a commercial starter mash for 4 weeks. On the fourth week, experimental diets were offered and growth performance data were collected over a period of 13 weeks. Carcass characteristics were measured upon slaughter at the end of the 13-week feeding period. Diet×strain interaction was significant (P<0.001) for feed intake but not (P>0.05) for growth rate and FCE. Feed intake responded to incremental levels of MOLM in an asymptotic fashion. Maximum feed intake was achieved at dietary MOLM inclusion levels between 50 and 70 g/kg DM. Black Australorp chickens had the highest feed conversion efficiency (FCE) of 2.35, while OV and PK chickens had lower FCE values of 2.09 and 2.05, respectively. Diet, strain and gender, all had significant effects on dressing percent (P<0.001), leg and thigh weight (P<0.05), and wing weight (P<0.05). Male chickens attained higher (P<0.05) carcass weight, leg and thigh weight, dressing percent, and breast mass than female chickens (P<0.001). In female chickens, diets containing MOLM resulted in chickens with better carcass weight, leg and thigh weight, dressing percent, and breast mass compared to the control. In conclusion, Black Australorp chickens were better at utilizing diets with higher levels of MOLM compared to OV and PK strains. Inclusion of MOLM in chicken diets positively affected growth performance and carcass characteristics of the birds.