As a broiler producer, you put a lot of thought into providing the best nutrition and management for your flock as they grow to their market weight. But what happens during the 21 days before they even hatch is equally important.
If the lifespan of the birds in your flock is 42 days, for example, the incubation period comprises one-third of their lifecycle. The nutrition embryos receive during that period is crucial to producing robust day-old chicks.
If birds aren’t receiving the right nutrition while they are still in the egg, they may either not make it to processing or go to processing with lower carcass weight. This will ultimately have a negative impact on your operation’s profitability.
Supporting Chick Embryo Development through Optimal Breeder Nutrition
How can we provide quality nutrition to broiler egg embryos during the incubation period? Breeders provided with optimal nutrition will pass these nutrients on to the embryo via Generational Nutrition®.
In this post, we will show you how feeding performance trace minerals to your breeders can improve skeletal development and reduce the impact of stress for embryos, so they are ready to thrive right when they hatch.
Improve Development of the Chicken Embryo Skeletal System
Developing a strong skeleton while in the egg is crucial for two reasons:
- It supports the hatch process
- It contributes to day-one robustness
One way to ensure strong bones and high chick quality is to invest in the eggshell. First of all, it is a growing embryo’s primary means of protection, but that’s not all. The eggshell is also the main supplier of the calcium needed for bone calcification, which is a process that starts when the embryo is growing inside the egg.
Skeletal formation starts in the very early stages of incubation with a collagen-based matrix assembled in the first week. Trace minerals are critical for this process even though minimal calcification is occurring at this time.
So, when do the bones become calcified?
The answer is when calcium from the eggshell is made available for the embryo. This process is very efficient and occurs because the zinc-dependent carbonic anhydrase enzyme is able to promote all conditions necessary for the calcium to be released from the eggshell.
Embryo skeletal growth is completed around three days before chicks start the hatching process, when the chick’s legs will push against the eggshell walls. Chicks need a well-formed skeleton to break through the eggshell and push themselves out. Without strong bones, they may either not hatch or spend more energy in the process of hatching, leading to further depletion of the leftover nutrients in the egg and putting their post-hatch development at a disadvantage.
Additionally, chicks are precocious, meaning they are able to feed themselves immediately after hatching without any help. If increased bone health at hatch translates into increased mobility, then chicks will be able to walk to the feed and have access to macro and micro minerals present in the starter diets, along with other nutrients essential for supporting post-hatch bone development.
These are the reasons it is important to supply the correct source of trace minerals to your hens and therefore guarantee that trace minerals will be available for embryonic growth.
Support Chick Development with Organic Trace Mineral Supplements
Feeding breeders a more efficient trace mineral source, like zinc, manganese and copper from Availa® ZMC, can improve the efficiency with which the skeleton becomes calcified at several periods during incubation and at hatch. Research (2013 Poultry Science 92 :402–411) showed a nearly 1% improvement in bone mineralization during incubation and at hatch when compared with inorganic sources. The end result was an increase in the number of hatched chicks per hen housed.
Mitigate Stress Levels During Chick Embryo Development Stages
Parallel to fast bone growth, other tissues such as muscles and organs are also being developed during incubation. The main energy for supporting such high metabolism is fat from the yolk.
In many ways, it’s like embryos are up against the clock, trying to complete their development in time for hatching. While a chick is developing inside the egg, it is consuming nutrients from the yolk and albumen, mobilizing calcium from the eggshell while also breathing and producing heat.
However, this process is not perfect and leads to the production of free radicals and oxidative stress.
This emphasizes the importance of proper machine management of the environment in order to prevent overheating, especially in the third week of incubation. This is a critical time for the chicken embryo in terms of oxidative stress. While many companies have done a lot to improve the environmental conditions in which embryos are growing, this process is not 100% effective and some eggs will still experience higher heat stress than others.
However, Mother Nature is smart because the hen transfers all tools needed to the embryos inside the egg to protect itself against their own toxic metabolites. These tools include trace minerals and vitamins which are all important to support the antioxidant defense system. Copper, zinc, manganese, iron and especially selenium are all key nutrients for supporting the antioxidant response.
This is another reason why it’s important to provide performance trace minerals to breeders so the embryos will be able to adequately fuel their growth and development while dealing with naturally occurring stress.
Enhance Broiler Production and Chick Development with Performance Trace Minerals
The incubation period may be the most important stage in the development of a chick. Providing breeder hens with Zinpro® Performance Minerals® can boost robustness in day-old chicks by improving:
- Eggshell quality and egg nutrient content
- Skeletal development and hatchability
- Stress management
Studies show that feeding performance trace minerals to breeders for proper embryo development during incubation and improving the quality of day-old chicks resulted in a return on investment of at least 4:1 compared to feeding hens with inorganic sources.
Our experienced team has the tools and resources to help you improve chick quality in your flock. Contact a Zinpro representative today to discuss all the ways we can help your operation.