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Newsletter February 2015

Healthy breeder, healthy broiler? Maternal transition of omega-3 fatty acids from broiler breeders to offspring.

Research at ILVO clearly demonstrated that fatty acids included in the maternal diet were transported to the offspring. However, no positive effects of these fatty acids have been observed on both the performance of the broiler breeders and the health of their offspring.

eggsDue to intensive selection, broiler chickens have become the most efficient meat producing animals because of their fast growth that is supported by a virtually unlimited voluntary feed intake. However, these characteristics cause problems in the management of the broiler breeder hens, since a negative correlation between muscle growth and reproduction is observed. Moreover, the occurrence of metabolic disorders and early mortality in broilers is still relatively high, despite efforts for a more balanced selection over the past 20 years. To promote the health of broilers and the reproductive performance of breeders, the potential of omega-3 fatty acids (ω-3 FA) was examined.

Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role on the cellular mechanisms and the fat- and eicosanoid metabolism in the pre- and postnatal period. The availability of the fatty acids is dependent on the concentration in the yolk, and thus indirectly of the feed that is administered to the broiler breeder. For an efficient broiler production, therefore, it is important to understand the interaction between maternal diet and chick quality. It is possible that the enrichment of the maternal diet with n-3 fatty acids can program the metabolism and immune system of the embryo on a persistent manner called "metabolic programming”.

To investigate this, two breeder trials were set up. The breeders were given various concentrations of n-6 and n-3 fatty acids in which the concentrations of DHA and EPA (the essential n-3 VZ), were also varied. At different times, from 6 (round 1) or 18 weeks (round 2) onwards, these diets were given. At different ages, eggs were collected in order to set up tests on the offspring.

The results of the experiments showed that supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids at breeder level did not improve reproduction or performance nor did it enhance incubation parameters or the performance of the offspring. However, an obvious transfer of the maternal fatty acids to the offspring was observed. Based on the investigated immunological parameters, it cannot be concluded that maternal n-3 supplementation improved offspring immunity. Further research to possible epigenetic effects are recommended to fully explore the indirect programming effects next to the direct effect of maternal transition investigated in this research.

Title: Maternale transitie van omega-3 vetzuren van vleeskuikenmoederdier naar nakomelingen
Funding: ILVO-EV/KU Leuven
Term: 2010 - 2014
Partners: KU Leuven, Dept Biosystemen, Afdeling Dier-Voeding-Kwaliteit, Prof. Buyse
Contact: Evelyne Delezie