Effects of age, vitamin D3, and fructooligosaccharides on bone growth and skeletal integrity of broiler chicks.
A study was conducted to evaluate the effects of age, vitamin D(3), and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) on bone mineral density (BMD), bone mineral content (BMC), cortical thickness, cortical and trabecular area, and mechanical properties in broiler chicks using peripheral quantitative computed tomography and mechanical testing. A total of 54 male broiler chicks (1 d old) were placed in battery brooders and fed a corn-soybean starter diet for 7 d. After 7 d, the chicks were randomly assigned to pens of 3 birds each. Each treatment was replicated 3 times. There were 6 treatments: 1) early age control (control 1); 2) control 2; 3) 125 µg/kg of vitamin D(3); 4) 250 µg/kg of vitamin D(3); 5) 2% FOS); and 6) 4% FOS. The control 1 chicks were fed a control broiler diet and killed on d 14 to collect femurs for bone analyses. The remaining groups were killed on d 21. Femurs from 3-wk-old chicks showed greater midshaft cortical BMD, BMC, bone area, thickness, and marrow area than those from 2-wk-old chicks (P = 0.016, 0.0003, 0.0002, 0.01, and 0.0001, respectively). Total, cortical, and trabecular BMD of chick proximal femurs were not influenced by age. However, BMC and bone area were significantly affected by age. The femurs of 2-wk-old chicks exhibited significantly lower stiffness and ultimate load than those of 3-wk-old chicks (P = 0.0001), whereas ultimate stress and elastic modulus of the femurs of 2-wk-old chicks were significantly higher than that of femurs of 3-wk-old chicks (P = 0.0001). Chicks fed 250 µg/kg of vitamin D(3) exhibited significantly greater midshaft cortical BMC (P = 0.04), bone area (P = 0.04), and thickness (P = 0.03) than control 2, 2% FOS, or 4% FOS chicks. In summary, our study suggests that high levels of vitamin D(3) can increase bone growth and mineral deposition in broiler chicks. However, FOS did not have any beneficial effects on bone growth and skeletal integrity. Age is an important factor influencing skeletal integrity and mechanical properties in broiler chicks.