BONE QUALITY in egg-laying hens benefits from a common feed supplement, new research led by the Roslin Institute has suggested.
Betaine could complement programmes to improve bone quality in laying hens, which are at risk of osteoporosis.
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Scientists investigated the effects of the nutritional intervention on chicken bone quality after previous results suggested it might play a role.
Hens were fed with one of four diets containing different amounts of dietary betaine, from hatch until they stopped laying eggs.
Blood and bone samples were collected at different stages.
Researchers measured the concentration of a blood component that is inversely linked to bone quality, and bones were examined with X-rays and a bending test.
The addition of dietary betaine improved bone strength in laying hens, scientists observed.
Egg production and quality was excellent throughout the study and were not affected by the dietary treatments.
The study was funded by animal nutrition technology company AB Vista and is published in British Poultry Science.
“Our results demonstrated that adding betaine to the diet of laying hens makes their bones stronger, therefore improving animal welfare of these food-producing animals,” said Maisarah Maidin, Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh.
Natasha Whenham, research and development manager at AB Vista, added: “The performance benefits of using betaine as a feed additive in poultry diets are thought to be well known.
“However, understanding how this additive can be used to alleviate welfare concerns in laying hens through improved bone quality, without affecting egg quality or production, is an exciting development and extends benefits of betaine further.”