Super doses of copper in feed can benefit the poultry gut

Providing copper supplementation above the nutritional level could help optimize intestinal structure and function and balance the poultry microbiome, resulting in improvements to broiler growth performance without antibiotics.

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David Tadevosian I shutterstock.com
David Tadevosian I shutterstock.com

Providing copper supplementation above the nutritional level could help optimize intestinal structure and function and balance the poultry microbiome, resulting in improvements to broiler growth performance without antibiotics. 

“Copper is mainly used in animal feeds for the gut health benefit and using right source is important,” Dr. Narendra Venkatareddy, global product manager of trace minerals, Selko Feed Additives, said.

For example, copper sulphate has weak ionic bonds resulting in high water solubility. This means the bonds break easily in the presence of moisture, releasing positively charged copper ions. Reactive copper ions can reduce feed intake, damage vulnerable tissue in the digestive tract and bind with other nutrients in the feed, reducing their availability to the bird. With the advent of hydroxy copper, producers now have an option to gain all the benefits of completely replacing copper sulphate with a less reactive copper without compromising the economic viability of their feeding program.

When fed at higher levels (125 to 250 mg/kg), copper has a bactericidal and bacteriostatic effect on the bad bacteria present in the broiler gut microbiome. Because this reduces bacterial levels, the broiler gut can increase nutrient absorption, which positively impacts feed efficiency and growth rate.

Benefits of feeding to balance the microbiome

“The microbiome needs to be balanced,” Venkatareddy said, noting that a growth in bad bacteria can cause diseases like necrotic enteritis

Necrotic enteritis typically develops as a complication of other diseases, like coccidiosis, that impact intestinal function or cause immunosuppression. It occurs after Intestinal damage, which allows C. perfringens, a normal inhabitant of the intestinal tract, to attach, proliferate and produce toxins. 

“When you use high levels of copper, especially in the kind of conditions where you see Clostridum perfringens, you can reduce the number of necrotic enteritis challenges,” he added.

Other benefits of super dosing copper

Both the broiler and the turkey industries have largely moved away from the use of antibiotics in recent years due to consumer concerns and the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can devastate flocks, affect farmer livelihood, and make consumers sick if they eat infected meat.

Copper is one of the most economical alternatives to antibiotics, resulting in improvements to broiler feed conversion and growth performance.

“We all know that antibiotic usage in animal production is under a lot of scrutiny” said Venkatareddy. “Consumers have become aware, and they definitely want to reduce the usage of antibiotics in the field. Producers want to reduce antibiotic use because consumers are demanding ABF meat.”

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