Belgian Study Explores Use of Omega-3s in Broiler Breeder Diets

BELGIUM - The fatty acid composition of the egg yolk of breeder hens was affected by the ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in their diet, according to a new study. Egg production was unaffected by dietary treatment but eggs from the birds receiving the PUFAs were lighter than the controls.
calendar icon 6 March 2014
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Dietary PUFAs can be incorporated from the breeder feed to the egg yolk to become available for the developing embryo, without compromising the performance and egg quality of the flock, according to a new study, just published in Poultry Science by Astrid Koppenol of KU Leuven and co-authors there and at the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO) in Melle.

The mechanism involved in lipid metabolism and deposition in the egg may be influenced by breeder age, they hypothesised. Before the effect of an elevated concentration of certain PUFAs on the embryo can be investigated, the effect at breeder level and egg quality must be further assessed.

The aim of their experiment was to evaluate the effects of dietary n-6/n-3 ratios and dietary eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 20:5 n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6 n-3) ratios, provided to broiler breeder hens, in terms of their laying performance, egg quality and yolk fatty acid composition.

Starting at six weeks of age, 640 Ross-308 broiler breeder hens were fed one of four different diets. The control diet was a basal diet, rich in n-6 FA. The three other diets were enriched in n-3 FA, formulated to obtain a different EPA/DHA ratio of 1/1 (EPA = DHA), 1/2 (DHA) or 2/1 (EPA). In fact, after analysis the EPA/DHA ratio was 0.8, 0.4 or 2.1, respectively.

Dietary EPA and DHA addition did not affect the performance of the breeder hens, except for egg weight.

Egg weight was lower for all n-3 treatments.

Dietary EPA improved number of eggs laid in the first two weeks of the production cycle.

The absolute and relative yolk weight of eggs laid by EPA=DHA fed hens was lowest .

EPA and DHA concentrations in the yolk were highly dependent on dietary EPA and DHA concentrations with a regression coefficient equal to 0.89.


Koppenol A., E. Delezie, J. Aerts, E. Willems, Y. Wang, L. Franssens, N. Everaert and J. Buyse. 2014. Effect of the ratio of dietary n-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid on broiler breeder performance, egg quality, and yolk fatty acid composition at different breeder ages. Poultry Science. 93(3): 564-573. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03320

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