Effects of storage conditions on hatchability, embryonic survival and cytoarchitectural properties in broiler from young and old flocks

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Abstract

Storing eggs at low temperature prior to incubation is common practice in the broiler hatchery industry; however, prolonged storage (beyond 7 d) is known to increase early embryonic mortality and reduce chick quality and performance. To better understand the basis of this mortality, we previously published milestone criteria to evaluate morphological and cellular properties of the freshly laid embryo. Using these criteria, in the present study we checked the effects of storage at 18°C and 12°C for up to 28 d on hatchability and chick quality. Furthermore, using a 3D high-resolution episcopic microscopy (HREM) imaging system combined with standard and confocal microscopy and cell viability markers, we analyzed the effects of the different storage conditions on embryonic developmental stage, cytoarchitectural properties, mitotic index and cell survival. A total of 1,483 eggs from a young flock were divided in 2 groups, 18°C and 12°C, and stored for 7, 14, 21, and 28 d. Following storage, randomly selected 1,222 eggs were incubated, and the hatched chicks were evaluated for chick quality parameters. Nonhatched eggs were also analyzed to determine the stage of embryonic mortality. The remaining 261 eggs were isolated and analyzed for developmental stage, cytoarchitecture, mitotic index, and cell death following storage. Hatchability rates beyond 7 d of storage at 12°C were significantly improved compared to 18°C, and chick quality remained high. Similar results were obtained for an old flock's eggs (n = 1,350). Analyzing the embryos, at each time point, we found that at 12°C, the developmental progression during storage slows significantly, mitotic index—which at this temperature may indicate mitotic arrest—increases and the rate of early apoptosis is half than at 18°C. Moreover, the HREM system and histological sections showed that embryos stored at 18°C for prolonged times undergo dramatic cytoarchitectural changes that may be maladaptive to resuming normal development after diapause. We thus demonstrate the usefulness of the milestone criteria for predicting and studying the storage conditions that will allow for better performance in hatchery practice.

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