A congestive cardiomyopathy (CCM) model occurs in inbred broad-breasted turkeys and is manifested by reduced hatchability and a high mortality within a week of hatching. In the survivors, cardiac dilation begins by 3-4 weeks of age and further mortality occurs from chronic congestive heart failure. The mechanisms behind these changes is unknown, and, therefore, we investigated what role, if any, myocardial energy metabolism might play in these events. Ventricular myocardial samples were obtained for analysis of adenine nucleotides (ATP, ADP, AMP) and creatine phosphate (CP) in control and CCM turkeys, 1-31 days old. The adenine nucleotide energy charge (EC) was calculated using the formula EC = ATP + 1/2ADP/(ATP + ADP + AMP). We found the myocardial ATP levels and EC in CCM hearts at 1-2 days were reduced. In control turkeys, no significant age-related differences were found in myocardial high-energy phosphate compounds or in the EC. This depression in the energy metabolism of CCM turkeys may also be reflected in their poor hatchability. By 6-10 days, however, ATP levels had recovered and remained normal despite the onset of cardiac dilation and failure at 3-4 weeks of age in CCM turkeys. Because CP levels in control and CCM turkey hearts were similar in all age groups, significant ischemia did not appear to be present after hatching in CCM turkeys. Our results suggest, therefore, that an insult probably prior to hatching produced depressed myocardial energy levels in CCM turkeys and led to reduced hatchability. This early insult appears to be significant, in that late cardiac dysfunction resulted despite the recovery of myocardial ATP levels.