Improving Broiler bone strength through nutrition

Incidence of leg weakness and broken bones is a serious problem in the poultry industry worldwide and causes huge economic loss each year. Modern broilers grow three to four times faster than previous generations. How can producers ensure that birds develop adequate bone strength through nutrition?

Inappropriate nutrition, management, and environmental factors can have an impact on bone strength and quality. Today, leg disorders such as angular bone deformities and Tibial Dyschondroplasia have become common in broilers attributing to poor growth, high mortality rates and increased carcass condemnation and downgrading at slaughter.
It is estimated that up to 2% of broiler flocks are lost due to lameness, costing the industry approximately $4 billion globally. In addition, 6% of broilers develop skeletal abnormalities such as Osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis in laying hens is a condition that involves the progressive loss of structural bone during the laying period. This bone loss results in increased bone fragility and susceptibility to fracture, with fracture incidences of up to 30% over the laying period and depopulation not uncommon under commercial conditions. Besides the ischium, humerus and furculum, the keel bone also has the highest fracture incidence, particularly in free range systems with approximately 60 – 80% of laying hens suffering from keel bone breakage. This has become a chief welfare issue facing the egg production industry in Europe and many other areas.

New insights
Bone is made up of two components: the organic matrix and the inorganic matrix. A fibrous protein called collagen is the main component of the organic matrix, while crystals of calcium phosphate make up the bulk of the inorganic matrix. The overall bone strength is determined by how each component makes up the entire structure. Because of these basic understandings of bone tissue make up, researchers have conventionally focused on minerals such as calcium and phosphorus and vitamins such as vitamin D in the past decades to improve bone strength in poultry.

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