Fatigued walking condition (FWC) in ducks is an important welfare and processing issue during the loading/unloading to the processing plant that can be related to heart and bone development. An experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects of incubation conditions on duck embryo bone and heart development and their subsequent effects on ducks showing FWC at market age. Four groups of 2500 Pekin duck eggs were subjected to combinations of two incubation temperature profiles (elevated [E] and normal [N]) and two eggshell conductance profiles (G) (reduced [GR] and normal [GN]). At hatch 10 ducklings from each treatment combination were sampled for heart, liver, residual yolk, and total body weight as well as relative weights (organ percentage of whole body weight). Femur, tibia, and tarsus length and weight were also obtained, and relative asymmetry (RA) was calculated for each leg section. At 35 days of age during unloading of the truck at the slaughter plant, five hens and five drakes demonstrating normal walking and FWC were sampled. Body, heart, and ventricular weights were obtained along with femur, tibia and tarsus length, weight, and RA. Bone strength was evaluated using a three-point bending test, and tibia ash content was assessed. At hatch duckling bone characteristics and organ weights were found to be primarily affected by GR conditions, while heart development in older ducks was mainly impacted by E incubation temperatures. Tibia and relative weight at 35 days were also increased by GR and E. Fatigued ducks presented heavier tibias with more RA and cortical thickness but lower ash percentage. In conclusion, the changes in bone development during incubation and posthatch life were related to duck FWC presence during transportation to the processing plant.
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Vol. 60 • No. 4