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Jansen, Simon; Baulain, Ulrich; Habig, Christin; Weigend, Annett; Halle, Ingrid; Scholz, Armin Manfred; Simianer, Henner; Sharifi, Ahmad Reza and Weigend, Steffen (2020): Relationship between Bone Stability and Egg Production in Genetically Divergent Chicken Layer Lines. In: Animals, Vol. 10, No. 5, 850

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Simple Summary Brittle or fractured bones due to continuous demineralisation cause major welfare and economic problems in laying hens. Bone weakness in laying hens is frequently attributed to long-term selection for increased egg production, but this is controversially discussed in the scientific literature. We aimed at characterizing factors influencing the bone breaking strength of laying hens, focusing mainly on the effect of eggshell production. By examining four different chicken layer lines separately, a genetically diverse spectrum of laying hen origins was included in our study. It was shown that bone strength is primarily influenced by bone mineral density. A strong association between bone strength and eggshell production was not observed within each of the lines studied. This applied to all layer lines. Our results suggest that a high egg number does not generally impair bone stability within layer lines. Findings from this study contribute to the discussion on the improvement of bone stability in poultry breeding programs and thus lead to increased animal welfare in egg production. Abstract Impaired animal welfare due to skeletal disorders is likely one of the greatest issues currently facing the egg production industry. Reduced bone stability in laying hens is frequently attributed to long-term selection for increased egg production. The present study sought to analyse the relationship between bone stability traits and egg production. The study comprised four purebred layer lines, differing in their phylogenetic origin and performance level, providing extended insight into the phenotypic variability in bone characteristics in laying hens. Data collection included basic production parameters, bone morphometry, bone mineral density (BMD) and bone breaking strength (BBS) of the tibiotarsus and humerus. Using a multifactorial model and regression analyses, BMD proved to be of outstanding importance for bone stability. Only for the tibiotarsus were morphometric parameters and the bone weight associated with BBS. Within the chicken lines, no effect of total eggshell production on BBS or BMD could be detected, suggesting that a high egg yield itself is not necessarily a risk for poor bone health. Considering the complexity of osteoporosis, the estimated genetic parameters confirmed the importance of genetics in addressing the challenge of improving bone strength in layers.

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