Effect of maternal canthaxanthin and 25‐hydroxycholecalciferol supplementation on the performance of ducklings under two different vitamin regimens

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Foetal development is a complex process involving a large scale maternal‐foetal nutrient transfer (Hill and Longo, 1980). During this process, maternal nutritional status directly decides the structure, physiology and metabolism of embryo (Wu et al., 2004); and reveals a lifelong influence on the growth and health of offspring (Barker et al., 1989). In avian species, it is special that the hen‐egg nutrient transfer is happened before the embryonic development. Actually, maternal dietary strategies can easily been used in birds to increase the performance and warfare of post‐hatch progeny (Zhao et al., 2011; Oso et al., 2014; Sun et al., 2015), as the nutrients composition of eggs is changeable with the hens' diet regimens (Botsoglou et al., 2013). Of particular interest is the application of maternal nutritional strategies to increase the antioxidant status and bone quality of progeny, which shows a potential to decrease the economic loss caused by oxidative stress and skeletal disorder.
The pigmentation and antioxidant properties of carotenoids have been well documented in poultry. Surai and Speake (1998) reported that maternal dietary carotenoids could be effectively distributed to egg yolk and tissues of the chicks. Rosa et al. (2012) found maternal supplementation of canthaxanthin (CX) increased the fertility, hatchability, and antioxidant status of eggs. In Zhang's study (Zhang et al., 2011), chicks hatched from CX‐enriched eggs showed increased shank pigmentation and antioxidant capacity for at least 7‐days post hatch, and had a lower mortality during the first 21‐days post hatch. Just like CX, vitamin D3 composition of eggs also could be modified by dietary levels (Zang et al., 2011). Twenty‐five hydroxycholecalciferol (25‐OH‐D3), one of the vitamin D3 metabolites, has been reported to enhance the embryonic calcium metabolism during the hen‐egg‐embryo‐chick nutrient transfer process (Saunders‐Blades and Korver, 2015). Saunders‐Blades and Korver (2014) found that maternal 25‐OH‐D3 reduced the early embryonic mortality. Atencio et al. (2005a) observed increased tibia ash contend in 16‐days‐old chicks hatched from hens supplemented with 25‐OH‐D3 when compared with vitamin D3. Interestingly, little investigation has been made on the application of the CX and 25‐OH‐D3 mixture (CX+25‐OH‐D3) in poultry breeder feed.
Dietary regimen of offspring has been reported to influence their response to maternal nutritional status (Torrens et al., 2012; Cheong et al., 2014). In Gao's study (Gao et al., 2013), maternal xanthophylls supplementation increased antioxidant status of progeny chicks, regardless of the xanthophylls content of chicks' diet. However, Atencio et al. (2005b) pointed out that dietary vitamin D3 status affected chicks' responses to different maternal vitamin D3 supplementation levels. The objectives of our study were to evaluate the effects of maternal dietary CX+25‐OH‐D3 supplementation on growth performance, antioxidant status and bone quality of ducklings under two different vitamin regimens.
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