Bone Health or Performance? Adaptation Response of Genetically Divergent Chicken Layer Lines to a Nutritive Calcium Depletion
Institute of Farm Animal Genetics, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, 31535 Neustadt, Germany
Institute of Physiology and Cell Biology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, 30173 Hannover, Germany
Institute of Animal Nutrition, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, 38116 Braunschweig, Germany
Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, 29223 Celle, Germany
Animal Breeding and Genetics Group, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Göttingen, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
Center for Integrated Breeding Research, University of Göttingen, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Received: 18 August 2020
Revised: 5 September 2020
Accepted: 10 September 2020
Published: 14 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Poultry
Selection for high egg production in laying hens has led to an increased calcium requirement and consequently to an intensified calcium mobilization from the bones. However, excessive demineralization can lead to osteoporosis, which is manifested by a high incidence of bone-damaged hens. In this study, we characterized the adaptation response of laying hens to a repeated dietary calcium restriction (1.09% instead of 4.26% calcium) by means of egg production, eggshell quality, body weight and bone stability. The animal model included four layer lines differing in performance level (high vs. moderately performing lines) and phylogenetic origin (white-egg vs. brown-egg layers). We assumed that the high performing lines would respond by maintaining egg production level at the expense of eggshell quality and bone health. Egg production and eggshell quality declined considerably and bone demineralization occurred in all lines. Contrary to our hypothesis, there was evidence that phylogeny rather than performance level influenced the hens′ response. The brown-egg lines appeared to be more tolerant to the calcium depletion, while the white-egg lines were more sensitive. Our findings demonstrate the influence of genetics on the adaptive capacity of chickens and underline the importance of preserving genetic variability to cope with potential future environmental challenges.