Broiler Chicks May Benefit from "Spicier" FeedBy
Adding oil or spice to the diets of chicks may help stave off
intestinal parasites that cause avian coccidiosis, studies by
Agricultural Research Service
Coccidiosis is caused by single-celled organisms of the genus Eimeria.
These microbes infect the chick's intestine and cause lesions that
hinder the chick's ability to absorb nutrients from feed. This can
slow the chick's growth or kill it. Coccidiosis costs poultry
producers $350 million annually in losses and medication expenses for
antibiotic drugs such as salinomycin.
A search for new alternatives for Eimeria control has been
spurred by the microbe's increasing resistance to available drugs, the
cost of developing new drugs, and growing consumer demand for
To this end, researchers at ARS'
Biology and Epidemiology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., are
testing new, natural feed additives: high-fatty-acid oils from
flaxseed and linseed plants. The additives don't kill Eimeria.
Instead, they trigger a natural, biochemical response in chicks called
oxidative stress. The stress results in byproduct compounds that doom
Eimeria hiding in cells of the cecum, a portion of the bird's
When mixed into a commercial diet and fed to newborn chicks for four
weeks, flaxseed oil reduced by 54 percent the number of cecal lesions
caused by the species E. tenella. A linseed oil diet reduced
lesions by 64 percent.
Also of interest to the scientists is cucurmin, an antioxidant from
turmeric, a popular cooking spice used in curries and other ethnic
foods. Turmeric targets protozoa infecting the mid-gut. Compared to
untreated control birds in the study, turmeric-fed chicks had 58
percent fewer lesions from E. maxima. Turmeric also increased
the chicks' weight by 35 percent.
E. tenella and E. maxima are just two of seven Eimeria
species researchers hope to fight with the new approach.
Scientific contact: Patricia Allen, ARS
Biology and Epidemiology Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., phone
(301) 504-8772, PALLen@ggpl.arsusda.gov.