Continuous loading of the skeleton by the body’s weight is an important factor in establishing and maintaining bone morphology, architecture and strength. However, in fast-growing chickens the appendicular skeleton growth is suboptimal making these chickens predisposed to skeletal mineralization disorders and fractures. This study compared the macro- and microstructure as well as the mechanical properties of the tibiotarsus of a novel dual-purpose, Lohmann Dual (LD) and a highly developed broiler, Ross (Ross 308) chicken line. Eighty one-day-old male chicks of each line were grown until their body weight (BW) reached 2000g. Starting at the day of hatching, six birds of each line were sampled weekly. The weight, length and width of the tibiotarsus were measured and its mechanical properties (rigidity, M-Max and the M-fracture) were evaluated using the three-point bending test. Additionally, the mineral density of both, trabecular and cortical bone, the bone volume fraction, the trabecular number, thickness and separation plus cortical thickness of both chicken lines were analyzed using microcomputed tomography. The growth of the tibiotarsus in both chicken lines followed a similar pattern. At the same age, the lighter LD chickens had shorter, thinner and lighter tibiotarsi than those of Ross chickens. However, the LD chickens had a similar cortical thickness, bone volume fraction and similar mineral density of both trabecular and cortical bone to that of Ross chickens. Furthermore, the tibiotarsus of LD chickens was longer, heavier and wider than those of Ross chickens of the same BW. In addition the rigidity of the LD tibiotarsus was greater than that of Ross chickens. This suggests that the tibiotarsus of LD chickens had more bending resistance than those of Ross chickens of the same BW. Consequently, fattening LD chickens to the marketable weight should not affect their leg skeleton stability.
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