The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of duck breeder age on liver lipid accumulation and yolk absorption and utilization in duck embryos (day 25 of incubation) and newly hatched ducklings. One breeder flock was monitored at 24 (young breeders), 31 (mature breeders and near peak egg production) and 47 (post peak egg production) weeks of age. Electron microscopy images of duck embryo liver slices revealed a significant change in hepatic lipid accumulation as a function of breeder age. More specifically, as breeder age increased both the relative number of liver lipid droplets as well as the size of the lipid droplets increased in duck embryos (day 25 of incubation). At hatch, however, newly hatched ducklings from 31-week-old breeders exhibited the lowest number as well as the smallest sized lipid droplets when compared to ducklings from 24 or 47-week-old breeders. The trend in yolk absorption at day 25 as a function of breeder age paralleled that in liver lipid accumulation. That is, day 25 maintained a higher percentage of unabsorbed yolk when compared to embryos from 31- or 47-week-old breeders. In contrast to breeder age, time of incubation (day 25 vs. day 28 or hatch) had little effect on yolk fatty acid profiles when compared to breeder age. Although there were no clear trends in yolk fatty acid usage among the various ages of breeders, newly hatched ducklings from 31-week-old breeders did have a significantly higher proportion of 18:2 n6 compared to those from breeders at 24 or 47 weeks of age. These data would suggest that breeder age subsequently affects the relative number and size of liver lipid droplets in embryos and newly hatched ducklings.

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