Among meat-producing animals, chickens stand out for their higher GMD, in terms of body weight and the best feed conversion, being considered a relatively sustainable source of animal protein. This sustainability translates into the efficiency with which animals are produced, so that birds raised inadequate conditions, express their genetic potential, and with less variability.
Good zootechnical performance is related to the optimal intestinal health of the birds. Thus, even if good quality rations and adequate environments are offered, without intestinal health, it will not be possible to obtain high production. This fact results from the elimination of the food/nutrients consumed, passing through the entire gastrointestinal tract without being absorbed.
Flora in the gut
The community of microorganisms in the intestine is referred to in several ways: intestinal flora, intestinal microbiota, and the intestinal microbiome. It is a diverse community mainly of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses. Although modern DNA-based technologies have given a much more accurate picture of the bacterial species present in the gut, it has become increasingly evident that a large number of bacteria in the gut are currently unknown and unclassified.
Therefore, the microbiota has a great influence on the maintenance of the intestinal health of birds, thanks to the ability to modulate some physiological functions of the host, functions that are directly linked to the organism’s homeostasis.
Within the gastrointestinal tract, there are multiple interactions between host (bird) cells, the intestinal environment, bacterial cells, and food components. These interactions emphasize the extremely important role of the intestinal microbiota in the health and well-being of the host. The bacterial community of the intestinal microbiota forms a protective barrier that lines the intestine, preventing the growth of less favorable or pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Clostridium perfringens.
When the intestine is in homeostasis, the microorganisms take care to maintain the competitive exclusion, through the predation of pathogenic microorganisms and alteration of the ambient pH.
Theories suggest that the commensal (or friendly) microbiota dominates the attachment sites in intestinal cells, reducing the opportunity for pathogen fixation and colonization. Another proposed mechanism is that the intestinal microbiota can secrete compounds, including volatile fatty acids, organic acids, and natural antimicrobial compounds (known as bacteriocins), which inhibit growth or make the environment unsuitable for bacteria less favorable.
For a long time, the search for this balance between intestinal microorganisms and the host took place through growth-promoting antibiotics (APCs) in the control and prevention of pathogens, incorporating them as additives in animal feed or drinking water, especially in production intensive use of broilers. However, as already discussed here, there is no more room for the use of antibiotics as growth promoters, which leads us to alternative additives that can maintain the good intestinal health of chickens.
Alternative additives to APC’s:
- Probiotics, Prebiotics, and symbiotics;
- Blends of organic acids with tannins and essential oils;
- Organic acids;
- Natural extracts.
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