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Effect of the ratio of dietary n-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid on broiler breeder performance, egg quality, and yolk fatty acid composition at different breeder ages.

  • Koppenol, A
  • Delezie, E
  • Aerts, J
  • Willems, E
  • Wang, Y
  • Franssens, L
  • Everaert, N
  • Buyse, J
Published Article
Poultry science
Publication Date
Mar 01, 2014
DOI: 10.3382/ps.2013-03320
PMID: 24604849


When added to the feed of broiler breeder hens, dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids (FA) can be incorporated into the yolk and therefore become available to the progeny during their early development. The mechanism involved in lipid metabolism and deposition in the egg may be influenced by breeder age. Before the effect of an elevated concentration of certain polyunsaturated FA on the embryo can be investigated, the effect at breeder level and egg quality must be further assessed. The aim of the present experiment was to evaluate the effects of dietary n-6/n-3 ratios and dietary eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5 n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6 n-3) ratios, provided to broiler breeder hens, in terms of their zoo technical performance, egg quality, and yolk FA composition. Starting at 6 wk of age, 640 Ross-308 broiler breeder hens were fed 1 of 4 different diets. The control diet was a basal diet, rich in n-6 FA. The 3 other diets were enriched in n-3 FA, formulated to obtain a different EPA/DHA ratio of 1/1 (EPA = DHA), 1/2 (DHA), or 2/1 (EPA). In fact, after analysis the EPA/DHA ratio was 0.8, 0.4, or 2.1, respectively. Dietary EPA and DHA addition did not affect the performance of the breeder hens, except for egg weight. Egg weight was lower (P < 0.001) for all n-3 treatments. Dietary EPA improved number of eggs laid in the first 2 wk of the production cycle (P = 0.029). The absolute and relative yolk weight of eggs laid by EPA = DHA fed hens was lowest (P = 0.004 and P = 0.025, respectively). The EPA and DHA concentrations in the yolk were highly dependent on dietary EPA and DHA concentrations with a regression coefficient equal to 0.89. It can be concluded that dietary EPA and DHA can be incorporated in the breeder egg yolk to become available for the developing embryo, without compromising the performance and egg quality of the flock.

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