Relationship between Bone Stability and Egg Production in Genetically Divergent Chicken Layer Lines
Impaired animal welfare due to skeletal disorders is likely one of the greatest issues currently facing the egg production industry. Reduced bone stability in laying hens is frequently attributed to long-term selection for increased egg production. The present study sought to analyse the relationship between bone stability traits and egg production. The study comprised four purebred layer lines, differing in their phylogenetic origin and performance level, providing extended insight into the phenotypic variability in bone characteristics in laying hens. Data collection included basic production parameters, bone morphometry, bone mineral density (BMD) and bone breaking strength (BBS) of the tibiotarsus and humerus. Using a multifactorial model and regression analyses, BMD proved to be of outstanding importance for bone stability. Only for the tibiotarsus were morphometric parameters and the bone weight associated with BBS. Within the chicken lines, no effect of total eggshell production on BBS or BMD could be detected, suggesting that a high egg yield itself is not necessarily a risk for poor bone health. Considering the complexity of osteoporosis, the estimated genetic parameters confirmed the importance of genetics in addressing the challenge of improving bone strength in layers.