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Poult Sci. 2013 Dec;92(12):3071-9. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03278.

Increasing dietary vitamin D3 improves the walking ability and welfare status of broiler chickens reared at high stocking densities.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition, College of Animal Science and Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100094 P. R. China;


A study was conducted to evaluate the effects of varying dietary vitamin D3 and stocking density on growing performance, carcass characteristics, bone biomechanical properties, and welfare responses in Ross (308) broilers. Experimental diets, containing 1, 10, or 20 times the NRC recommended level of vitamin D3 (200 IU/kg), were formulated with low, medium, or high vitamin D3 levels for 3 growing phases. Two stocking densities were 10 and 16 birds/m(2). One-day-old hatchlings (1,872 males) were randomly assigned to 6 pens in each treatment. Results showed that high stocking density decreased the feed intake, BW gain (P < 0.01), breast muscle yield (P = 0.010), and tibial development (P < 0.01), whereas increasing feed conversion ratio (P < 0.001), and the scores of gait, footpad and hock burn, and abdominal plumage damage (P < 0.01), particularly toward the age when birds attained their market size. Increasing dietary vitamin D3 improved the birds' walking ability and tibial quality (P < 0.05), and reduced the development of footpad or hock dermatitis and abdominal plumage damage (P < 0.01), some aspects of which were age-dependent and appeared to vary with stocking density. These data indicate that increasing supplemental vitamin D3 has a favorable effect on walking ability and welfare status of high stocking density birds, but not on performance.

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