Influences of trace mineral nutrition and maternal flock age on broiler embryo bone development

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Abstract

At hatch, the chick skeleton is a miniature of that of the adult bird. The hen deposits calcium, phosphorus, and trace minerals (copper, zinc, and manganese) along with vitamin D into the egg to allow development of the embryonic skeleton. The main source of calcium is the eggshell, whereas phosphorus, trace minerals, and vitamin D are mainly derived from the yolk. Calcium is absorbed from the eggshell and transferred to the embryo and yolk through the chorioallantoic membrane, whereas phosphorus and trace minerals are simultaneously mobilized by the yolk sac membrane. These processes start at day 12 of incubation and peak at around day 17. While the eggshell provides a steady supply of calcium until 19 d of incubation, phosphorus and trace mineral reserves decrease considerably and minimal skeletal development occurs in the last 3 d of incubation. Whether the low levels of phosphorus and trace minerals at late incubation prevent further bone growth, or some other biological control exists preventing further mineralization towards hatching is unknown. Maternal transfer of minerals and the influence of trace mineral form in the hen diet to advance the state of skeletal development at hatch have received increased research attention. Minimal effects on yolk mineral composition and bone growth were observed in the offspring of hens fed different forms of trace minerals. Embryos from young hens had inferior bone development towards the end of incubation and at hatch relative to chicks from older hens. This effect is likely a consequence of limited egg nutrient resources in eggs from young hens. The influence of maternal nutrient transfer on embryonic bone development has been clearly established. However, attempts to increase the state of skeletal development at hatch through increasing egg mineral content have met with limited success. The focus of this paper is the relationship between skeletal mineralization of the chicken embryo throughout incubation and egg mineral supply.

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