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Bone Health or Performance? Adaptation Response of Genetically Divergent Chicken Layer Lines to a Nutritive Calcium Depletion

1
Institute of Farm Animal Genetics, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, 31535 Neustadt, Germany
2
Institute of Physiology and Cell Biology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, 30173 Hannover, Germany
3
Institute of Animal Nutrition, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, 38116 Braunschweig, Germany
4
Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, 29223 Celle, Germany
5
Animal Breeding and Genetics Group, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Göttingen, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
6
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.
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1645; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091645
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.
In modern laying hybrids, calcium (Ca) homeostasis is immensely challenged by daily eggshell calcification. However, excessive mobilization of Ca from bones may lead to osteoporosis, which then manifests in a high incidence of poor bone quality. The aim of this study was to characterize the hens’ adaptation response to an alternating dietary Ca restriction. The animal model consisted of four purebred layer lines, differing in laying performance (high vs. moderately performing lines) and phylogenetic origin (white- vs. brown-egg lines). According to the resource allocation theory, hens selected for high egg production were assumed to show a different response pattern to cope with this nutritive challenge compared to moderately performing lines. Data collected included egg number, egg quality traits, body weight and bone characteristics. The Ca depletion led to a temporary drop in egg production and shell quality and a loss of bone stability due to Ca mobilization. The white-egg lines response was more pronounced, whereas the brown-egg lines were less sensitive towards reduced Ca supply. Our study shows that the hens’ responsiveness to coping with a nutritive Ca depletion is not ultimately linked to genetic selection for increased egg production but rather to phylogenetic origin. View Full-Text
Keywords: bone strength; egg production; eggshell quality; calcium depletion; laying hens; phylogeny; recovery bone strength; egg production; eggshell quality; calcium depletion; laying hens; phylogeny; recovery
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Jansen, S.; Bues, M.; Baulain, U.; Habig, C.; Halle, I.; Petow, S.; Sharifi, A.R.; Weigend, A.; Wilkens, M.R.; Weigend, S. Bone Health or Performance? Adaptation Response of Genetically Divergent Chicken Layer Lines to a Nutritive Calcium Depletion. Animals 2020, 10, 1645.

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