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Bone quality and composition are influenced by egg production, layer line, and oestradiol-17ß in laying hens

German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Department 9 - Experimental Toxicology and ZEBET, Unit 94 - Animal Welfare and Knowledge Transfer, Berlin, Germany; Friedrich Loeffler Inst, Inst Anim Welf & Anim Husb, Celle, Germany
Eusemann, Beryl; Ulrich, Reiner; Sanchez-Rodriguez, Estefania; Benavides-Reyes, Cristina; Dominguez-Gasca, Nazaret; Rodriguez-Navarro, Alejandro B; Petow, Stefanie

Keel bone fractures are a serious animal welfare problem in laying hens. The aim of the current study was to assess the influence of egg production, estradiol-17ß, and selection for high laying performance on bone quality. Hens of two layer lines differing in laying performance (WLA: 320 eggs per year, G11: 200 eggs per year) were allocated to four treatment groups. Group S received a deslorelin acetate implant that suppressed egg production. Group E received an implant with the sexual steroid estradiol-17ß. Group SE received both implants and group C did not receive any implant. In the 63rd week of age, composition and characteristics of the tibiotarsi were assessed using histological analysis, three-point bending test, thermogravimetric analysis, infrared spectroscopy, and two-dimensional X-ray diffraction, respectively. Non-egg laying hens showed a higher total bone area and a higher relative amount of cortical bone compared to egg laying hens. Hens of layer line G11 showed a higher relative amount of medullary bone and a higher degree of mineralization of the cortical bone compared to hens of layer line WLA. These differences in bone composition may explain different susceptibility for keel bone fractures in non-egg laying compared to egg laying hens as well as in hens of layer lines differing in laying performance. The effect of exogenous estradiol-17ß on bone parameters varied between the layer lines indicating a genetic influence on bone physiology and the way it can be modulated by hormone substitution.



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