Higher Levels of DDGS May be Used in Laying Hen Diets

Laying hens can be fed levels of up to 15 per cent dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) and perhaps up to 25 per cent, without adverse effects, according to researchers at the University of Nebraska. They added that the resulting increase in yolk colour may be an advantage in some markets.
calendar icon 10 October 2011
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High corn and soybean prices have made the search for ways to decrease poultry feed costs more important than ever. According to the Poultry Science Association (PSA), researchers at the University of Nebraska have identified one possible approach that may be effective for laying hens: increasing the percentage of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) used in hens’ diets. DDGS serve as a valuable source of energy, protein and amino acids in poultry diets.

The researchers – Drs Mahmoud Masa’deh, Sheila Purdum and Katherine Hanford – detail their findings in a recent issue of the journal, Poultry Science ("Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles in Laying Hen Diets". Poultry Science, 2011. 90: 1960-1966).

"Dried distillers grains with solubles have previously been shown to be a valuable and, especially given current prices of corn and soybean meal, affordable ingredient in poultry diets. Current usage levels of DDGS in poultry diets typically range from five per cent up to 10 per cent. What our recent study has shown is that growers can safely explore levels of DDGS in their diets for laying hens up to 15 per cent, and perhaps as high as 25 per cent, with no negative effects on feed intake, egg production or other key metrics, and with improved yolk colour at the higher levels," said Dr Purdum, one of the study’s authors.

Subsequent studies will also look at the impact of replacement rations containing DDGS for pullets, noted Dr Purdum.

Experimental Approach

The research team’s study comprised two egg production phases, during which diets were formulated to include 0, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 per cent corn DDGS. The only difference between the diets in Phase 1 (weeks 24-46) and Phase 2 (weeks 47-76) was that in Phase 1, the diets were formulated on a fixed lysine and TSAA (total sulphur amino acids) level. During the second phase, the diets were designed to keep lysine and methionine at a fixed level, but the TSAA levels were allowed to increase due to higher cysteine levels in DDGS.


The researchers found that neither feed intake nor egg production were affected by dietary DDGS concentration in either phase of the study. In Phase 1, however, researchers observed that increases in DDGS levels correlated with a roughly linear decrease in egg weight. However, the negative correlation between DDGS and egg weight was not seen in Phase 2 of the study.

According to the study’s authors, differences in amino acid levels and potential bioavailability as well as changing amino acid balance in Phases 1 and 2 could have been the reason for the reduction in egg weight only during Phase 1.

The authors found no differences in Haugh units due to DDGS levels in either production phase. In addition, the researchers observed a linear increase in the retention of nitrogen and phosphorus with increasing levels of DDGS; the output per kilogram (as measured in the hens’ excreta) of these elements, however, decreased linearly as DDGS increased. This result is opposite to what was reported by other researchers, whose work focused on broiler chicks.

One difference the researchers consistently found throughout the study was that egg yolk colour increased linearly with increased dietary levels of DDGS, reaching its greatest Roche color fan score of 7.2 in eggs from hens fed the diet containing 25 per cent DDGS. According to the authors, this indicates that xanthophylls in the DDGS were ‘highly available’. They also point out that the xanthophyll content of dried distillers grains with solubles is approximately three times that of corn by weight (34mg/kg versus 10.62mg/kg, respectively). This finding may be useful for producers selling eggs in markets where there is a consumer preference for increased yolk pigmentation.

October 2011

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