Within the gastrointestinal tract of your flock, a huge collection of microbes (bacteria, fungi and viruses) lies. This microbial community is crucial to gut health, and, in turn, overall health as it directly impacts immune system development, protection against intestinal disease, produces vitamins and aids in digestion. 

 

Broiler Breeder Nutrition and Gut Health

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Feed access, formulation, digestibility, quality, processing, and additives are all important factors involved in promoting and maintaining gut health.

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●    The importance of quality feed formulation to support gut health.
●    How access to feed and water at chick placement impacts gut development.
●    Why feed quality is so important as well as the direct and indirect impacts feed contaminants can have on the gut. 

Poultry rely on optimal gut health to digest feed efficiently. However, the composition of the feed itself can directly and indirectly impact gut health. For example, feed contaminants such as mycotoxins can directly damage the gastrointestinal tract. Some feed ingredients and changes in feed formulation can indirectly impact gut health by selecting and enriching the growth of specific bacteria species in the gut.

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Promoting and Sustaining Poultry Gut Health

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Any disruptions to the intestinal tract by pathogens, toxins, or poor feed quality can impact performance, so promoting gut health is accomplished by providing good-quality feed and water, a healthy environment, and through a solid disease prevention program.

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What you will learn from this free article

●    Why gut integrity is important and how to promote strong gut integrity. 
●    What causes leaky gut and how to help prevent the condition.
●    Important biosecurity measures that can help prevent gut health challenges. 

A healthy intestinal tract is essential for top performance of the flock. Growth and production are dependent on efficient nutrient digestion and absorption. Therefore, any disruptions to the intestinal tract by pathogens, toxins, or poor feed quality can impact performance. Promoting gut health is accomplished by providing good-quality feed and water, a healthy environment, and through disease prevention. In our series of gut health articles, other members of the World Technical Service Team discussed nutrition, water, and environment. Here, I will discuss promoting and sustaining gut health through a solid disease prevention program.

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Economics and Poultry Gut Health

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A flock with poor gut health will nearly always have reduced profitability, so start at placement with good management practices to develop a strong, stable and healthy gut and maintain that strength by continuing to practice good management. 

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●    How poor gut health can cause poor flock uniformity and the subsequent impacts on profitability in both broiler breeders and broilers. 
●    The relationship between gut health in breeders and eggshell quality, floor eggs, egg uniformity, hatchability, and chick uniformity. 
●    Why even a short-term gut health challenge can be especially costly to a broiler producer.  

Depending on the production area, broiler breeders or broilers, production costs that are impacted by gut health issues differ. Within broiler breeders, poor gut health can impact flock uniformity, ultimately leading to issues with egg production. Veterinary costs associated with treating gut disease can also be considerable and reduce profitability. For broilers, producers rely on efficient digestion of feed and low feed conversion ratios (FCR). When the gut is unhealthy, digestion and absorption of nutrients are impaired, increasing feed costs. Uniformity, in the context of broilers, can also be negatively impacted by poor gut health, but impacts profitability at the processing plant.   

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The Genetic Influence on Poultry Microbiome

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Although the environment seeds the gastrointestinal tract with microbes, the genetic background of the host can influence the composition and functional relationship between the microbiome and chicken.

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What you will learn from this free article

●    Genetic differences among poultry breeds to consider when evaluating the role the microbiome plays in the host. 
●    How genetic selection for low FCR in broilers has impacted digestion and, in turn, the role of the microbiome in digestion. 
●    The impacts of genetic selection and feed management on broiler breeder digestion and microbial diversity and stability in the ceca.    

As discussed throughout this series, the gut microbiome is developed/influenced by environmental experiences. Microbes are introduced to the developing embryo and newly hatched chick through the egg’s internal and external contents deposited from the hen during egg formation and oviposition. Consumption of feed and water will further seed the gut. House cleanliness also plays a role in developing a robust microbiome and the proper support to assist the bird in achieving maximum phenotypic potential. This is tricky because phenotypic variation is made up of the sum of genetic and environmental variances and the variance associated with the way the birds’ genetics interact with the environment. It appears that it is the latter where the microbiome resides as interactions between host genetics and microbiota clearly exist.

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Water and Poultry Gut Health

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With respect to gut health, water is just as important as feed and quality factors, including temperature, pH, and chlorine concentrations, and must be monitored to promote a healthy intestinal tract.

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What you will learn from this free article

●    Water sources and their potential bacteria contaminants can vary widely.
●    What a biofilm is, how it forms, and how to control and prevent this potential bacterial issue from forming in your water lines. 
●    Management tips to help your flock develop and maintain a healthy gut.

Water is often forgotten as an essential nutrient, yet water plays an important role in many body functions, including for the digestion and metabolism of nutrients. Water aids feed transit through the digestive tract by softening gut contents. Transporting nutrients in the blood and the extracting fecal and urinary waste products also require water. Additionally, the unique features of water make it a vital part of the chicken’s mechanism to regulate body temperature.

With respect to gut health, water is just as important as feed. Feed is typically treated and, with correct storage, is not a significant source of bacterial contamination. Conversely, if not correctly managed, water is a potential source of pathogens and high loads of bacteria.

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