Effects of dietary protein concentration and specific amino acids on body weight, body composition and feather growth in young turkeys

Br Poult Sci. 2003 Mar;44(1):75-87. doi: 10.1080/0007166031000085346.


1. Two randomised block factorial experiments were conducted to investigate the relationships between the effects of dietary crude protein and specific amino acid concentrations on the relative growth of the body and feathers of young turkeys. 2. Decreasing dietary crude protein concentration from 300 to 180 g/kg in experiment 1 reduced the body and breast muscle weights of a large male line of turkeys proportionally by 0.44 and 0.52 compared with 0.19 and 0.24 in a small traditional line. 3. Decreasing dietary crude protein concentration was associated with a maximum reduction in feather weight of 0.18 and 0.24 respectively in male line and traditional turkeys. The length of the feathers in the cranial region of the breast decreased from 26 to 19mm in the traditional line compared with an increase from 14 to 25 mm in male line turkeys. 4. Decreasing dietary crude protein concentration was associated with an increase in the fat content of the feather-free carcase. Male line turkeys had a higher carcase fat and lower feather dry matter content than the traditional turkeys. 5. It was concluded that dietary crude protein was preferentially partitioned to feather rather than muscle growth in the male line in contrast to a traditional line of turkeys in which the growth of feathers and muscle were affected equally. 6. In experiment 2, the amino acids arginine, valine, methionine and tyrosine were added separately to a common basal ration (180g CP/kg) to raise their concentration to that of the control ration (260 g CP/kg). Each ration was fed ad libitum to male line turkeys from 2 to 6 weeks of age. 7. Amino acid supplementation increased body and breast muscle weights. 8. Compared with the basal ration, tyrosine was associated with a reduction in feather weight whereas valine had no effect. Supplementation with arginine and methionine resulted in increased feather weights that were similar to that of the controls. 9. It was concluded that arginine and methionine were used preferentially and are essential for feather growth. Excess amino acids that are not required for feather growth such as tyrosine and valine were used for increased body growth and resulted in relatively poor feather cover. 10. The results suggest that feather growth was maintained as much as possible at the expense of body growth when the amino acid concentration of the ration was less than that required to maximise body and muscle weight gain in large male line turkeys.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / pharmacology*
  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Dietary Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Feathers / drug effects
  • Feathers / growth & development*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Turkeys / growth & development*


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins