Gut Health: The driver of performance & profitability in a poultry operation

The Digestive System is the engine that drives the performance of any commercial poultry flock. When it comes to producing profitable broiler chickens, gut health is everything, and its integrity from the first day till the harvest is crucial in achieving the full genetic potential of the breed. Optimal nutrient absorption requires an effective breakdown of feed into its constituents, which can only happen with a healthy gut and here lies the importance of gut health in achieving the maximum profitability from any poultry operation.

An overview of the gut and its function

A bird's gastrointestinal tract (GIT or gut) is a specialised tube that extends from the beak or mouth to the cloaca (Figure). The primary function of gut is to break down and digest food into its constituent parts so that the bird may absorb and use them. The crop, proventriculus, gizzard, small intestine (duodenum, jejunum, and ileum), and large intestine (ceca and cloaca) are the five distinct sections of the gut (Figure). Each of these sections plays a distinct part in the process of digestion and nutrient absorption.

The feed enters the crop, where it is temporarily stored before moving on to various regions of the gut to reach the ileum. By the time the digesta reaches the last section of the ileum during normal digestion, all the proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates get absorbed, leaving behind the feed's indigestible components (e.g., cellulose, non-starch polysaccharides, etc.).

The balance of nutrition, enteric and environmental factors: Maintaining gut health

Maintaining the delicate balance between the host, the intestinal microbiota and the management of macro and microenvironment of poultry birds is essential for gut health. Therefore, the quality of the feed ingredients they eat and the habitat in which the birds live can all have a considerable impact on maintaining this balance. Complete feed digestion and nutritional component absorption occur when gut health is at its best. Incomplete digestion and nutrient absorption, which can result in malabsorption and gut imbalance, can happen if the usual functions of the gut are disrupted. The health and performance of the birds may be impacted if there is any imbalance in the gut environment, which puts their gut health risk. Maintaining gut health in poultry is essential to raising top performing birds. When properly managed, good gut health in poultry empowers birds to fight off disease.

Take home message

Getting the best development and FCR out of any food-producing animal requires maintaining the balance of healthy gut health. Numerous academics have made an effort to comprehend gut flora, gut function, and gut immunity. It is becoming more and more clear that the gut is still a very complex organ. Maintaining good gut health is complicated by regional differences in poultry production, management styles, climate, disease challenges, and feed raw materials, but developing and maintaining gut health through good bird management practises is essential to maintaining bird health, welfare, and performance.

Compiled and published by Agrivet Research & Advisory Pvt. Ltd. Do follow Agrivet Research & Advisory LinkedIn page to read more reports on our Poultry Gut Health series.