Investigating the role of n-3 fatty acids on embryonic and rearing skeletal development and the subsequent impact on egg production, bone and eggshell quality in ISA brown and Shaver white hens
Optimal skeletal development prior to sexual maturity is pivotal in mitigating progressive structural bone and eggshell quality deterioration associated with egg production. Herein are investigations on the impact of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) on skeletal development during embryonic and rearing phases and subsequent effects on egg production, bone and eggshell quality in ISA brown and Shaver white hens. Hatching eggs were procured from breeders fed control or diets supplemented with n-3 PUFA sources: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or α-linolenic acid (ALA). During rearing, pullets from breeders fed control diet were fed control or supplemented diets, and pullets from supplemented diets either continued with respective n-3 PUFA diets or control diet. Pullets were transitioned to a common layer diet at 18 weeks of age (WOA) and monitored to 42 WOA. The use of n-3 PUFA in breeder feed increased embryonic utilization of DHA. The effects of n-3 PUFA on skeletal development were strain-dependent. Although feeding ALA did not affect bone quality, DHA fed to breeders supported tibia and femur structural (cortical) development in Shaver white hens. However, egg production, bone, and eggshell quality were not influenced by pre-lay exposure to n-3 PUFA. Although n-3 PUFA supported skeletal development pre-lay, there were no residual effects evident in 42 WOA ISA brown and Shaver white hens. Further studies should focus on the impact of various doses of n-3 PUFA, mainly DHA, and the subsequent effect on bone and eggshell quality over the entire lay cycle.