Limestone particle size fed to pullets influences subsequent bone integrity of hens

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This study was conducted to evaluate limestone particle size (LPS) in 2 strains of laying hens housed in conventional cages or aviaries on bone integrity. Lohmann Brown and Bovan White pullet chicks were started in equal numbers on the floor or in battery brooders and were intermingled throughout all subsequent housing systems. At 5 wk of age, 432 floor-raised pullets were moved to 8 aviary cages. At 10 wk, 256 battery-raised pullets were transferred to 64 conventional layer cages. Pullets were given diets containing fine (LPS-FINE, 0.431 mm) or a blend of fine and coarse (LPS-BLEND, 0.879 mm) LPS from 7 to 17 weeks. Data were analyzed as a split plot factorial design with strain as subplot and with 4 replicates for each treatment combination. Body weight, feed intake, egg production, and eggshell breaking strength and percentage were measured. Tibia bone mineral density (BMD) was determined using a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Presence of keel indentations, curvatures, or fractures was recorded. LPS-BLEND increased BMD (0.215 vs. 0.208, P = 0.03) at 18 weeks. During the pullet phase, the odds of pullets fed LPS-FINE displaying keel curvatures were 2.8 times the odds of those fed LPS-BLEND (P = 0.04). At 54 wk, hens fed LPS-BLEND as pullets had lower odds of keel indentations (P = 0.02). Brown aviary hens fed LPS-BLEND as pullets had the lowest egg production compared to the rest of the treatment combinations (P = 0.004). Taken together, feeding LPS-BLEND to pullets improved bone mineralization at the onset of sexual maturity and reduced keel damage during the pullet and layer phases, regardless of strain; however, LPS-BLEND was associated with lower egg production in Brown hens housed in aviaries compared to all others.

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