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Bringing eggs and bones to light

Publication Date
2017
Source
Wageningen University and Researchcenter Publications
Keywords
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Unknown
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Abstract

Leg bone pathologies are a common problem in broiler chickens, and they can lead to decreased welfare and poor production performance. It can be speculated that the ae­tiology of some leg bone pathologies lies, to some extent, in suboptimal early life bone development. One factor that can be speculated to affect bone development, and conse­quently leg health, in broiler chickens is application of light. Light has several properties, such as light intensity, color, duration, and schedule. The present thesis focuses on ligh­ting schedules. Aim was to investigate how lighting schedules applied during incubation and in the early post hatch period (the brooding period) affected leg bone development throughout a broiler’s life and leg health at slaughter age. In 4 studies, effects of eggshell temperature (EST) and lighting schedule during incuba­tion and in the brooding period on leg bone development, leg health, and production parameters were explored. The first study found that an EST of 39.4°C led to lower bone dimensions at hatch than an EST between 37.8 and 38.6°C. It was then decided that incubation experiments on bone development would best be performed at a constant EST of 37.8°C, as this is also an EST that leads to good hatchability and chick quality. In two studies, the effects of circadian lighting schedules during incubation on leg bone development and leg health were investigated. Staining of the embryonic leg bones sho­wed that applying a circadian lighting schedule of 12 hours of light, followed by 12 hours of darkness (12L:12D) resulted in an earlier onset of embryonic ossification of the tibia than continuous light (24L). Compared to 24L, 12L:12D furthermore resulted in higher tibia weight and length, and higher tibial cortical area, cortical thickness, and second moment of area around the minor axis at hatch as revealed by MicroCT scanning. It was furthermore found that 12L:12D resulted in a lower incidence of the leg pathology tibial dyschondroplasia. Continuous darkness (24D) was mostly intermediate. On the other hand, a circadian lighting schedule of 16 hours of light, followed by 8 hours of darkness (16L:8D) did not show the same stimulatory effect on leg bone development, as no dif­ferences in gene expression markers involved in embryonic ossification were found, leg bone dimensions at hatch were not increased, and bone mineral content as determined by DXA scanning was not higher for 16L:8D. It can therefore be speculated that the dark period should exceed 8 hours per day during incubation for increased bone dimensions and ossification. However, incidence and severity of the leg bone pathologies in the form of bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis and epiphyseal plate abnormalities were lowest for broilers exposed to 16L:8D during incubation, and tibial dyschondroplasia tended to be lower for 16L:8D than for 24D. Interactions between incubation and mat­ching or mismatching post hatch lighting schedules were not found. It was speculated that the endocrine factors (pineal) melatonin, growth hormone, corticosterone, and IGF- 1 were a pathway through which light affected leg bone development, but no evidence was found to support this hypothesis. Production performance was not greatly influen­ced by incubation lighting schedule, but 24L was found to result in higher body weights at slaughter age than 16L:8D and 24D. In the final experiment, lighting schedules were applied during the brooding period from day 0 to 4 after hatching and leg bone develop­ment was measured at day 4 post hatch. 24L led to increased leg bone dimensions, but lower developmental stability of the leg bones than a lighting schedule with 1 or 6 hours of darkness after every 2 hours of light. The overall findings of this thesis suggest that continuous light during incubation and in the brooding period had a detrimental effect on embryonic and early post hatch leg bone development and health. The involvement of endocrine factors was not clarified from the current results. Applying a light-dark rhythm during incubation may improve embryonic leg bone development and leg health at slaughter age compared to continuous light and continuous darkness, without affecting post hatch production performance, but it appears that the dark period should last longer than 8 hours per day for optimal leg bone development.

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