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Common feed supplement strengthens chicken bones - study
Researchers found that adding betaine to the diet of egg-laying hens improves bone quality.

Researchers assess the effects of betaine on egg-laying hens.

Adding a common feed supplement to a chicken's diet can help to improve bone strength, according to new research.

The study by the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute found that betaine – a widely used feed additive in pig, poultry and fish production – can improve bone quality in egg-laying hens that are at risk of osteoporosis.

A related study by Roslin also found that selection for hens with an adaption to store calcium - a process known as mineralisation of the medullary bone - could also improve bone quality.

The timing of puberty may also play a role in bone strength, the second study suggests. Researchers say the findings, published in British Poultry Science, could aid poultry producers in deciding which animals to breed.

Maisarah Maidin from the Roslin Institute explained: “Our results demonstrated that adding betaine to the diet of laying hens makes their bones stronger, therefore improving animal welfare of these food-producing animals.”

In the study, researchers fed chickens one of four diets containing different amounts of dietary betaine until they stopped laying eggs. Bone and blood samples were analysed at various stages throughout the process.

The team found that the addition of dietary betaine improved bone strength in laying hens. They also noted that egg quality and production were unaffected by the dietary treatments.

Dr Natasha Whenham, research and development manager at AB Vista, which funded the study, said: “The performance benefits of using betaine as a feed additive in poultry diets are thought to be well known. 
However, understanding how this additive can be used to alleviate welfare concerns in laying hens through improved bone quality, without affecting egg quality or production, is an exciting development and extends benefits of betaine further.”

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World Bee Day celebrations begin

News Story 1
 Today (20 May) marks the fifth annual World Bee Day, which raises awareness of the importance of bees and pollinators to people and the planet. Observed on the anniversary of pioneering Slovenian beekeeper Anton Jana's birthday, this year's celebration is themed: 'Bee Engaged: Celebrating the diversity of bees and beekeeping systems'.

Organisations and people celebrating the day will raise awareness of the accelerated decline in pollinator diversity, and highlight the importance of sustainable beekeeping systems and a wide variety of bees. Slovenia, the initiator of World Bee Day, will be focusing on teaching young people about the significance of pollinators. 

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News Shorts
Further avian flu cases confirmed

Three cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 have been confirmed in recent days, bringing the total number of cases in England to 98.

On Thursday, the APHA confirmed two cases of HPAI H5N1 near Redgrave, Mid Suffolk and Market Weston, West Suffolk. A case H5N1 was also confirmed in poultry at a premises near Southwell, Newark and Sherwood, Nottinghamshire.

Protection and surveillance zones are in place around the affected premises. Further details are available at gov.uk