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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Evaluation of the Toxicity of Alum (Aluminum Sulfate) in Young Broiler Chickens

Authors
item Huff, William
item Moore, Philip
item Balog, Janice
item Huff, Geraldine
item Rath, Narayan

Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 27, 1996
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Work in our laboratory has demonstrated that alum (aluminum sulfate) is an effective litter treatment that will reduce litter ammonia generation from litter, increase the value of poultry litter as a fertilizer, and reduce the environmental impact of the land application of poultry litter. If alum is to be introduced into the poultry rearing environment we must be sure that it will not affect poultry health, since poultry normally consum about 2 to 5% of their diet as litter. Therefore, these studies were conducted to determine the effects of feeding graded levels of alum to broiler chicks. Alum was found to be toxic at very high levels. The toxicity observed was attributed to presence of high levels of aluminum. These high levels of aluminum decreased phosphorus availability of the diet to the chicks. This effect of aluminum resulted in decreased growth rate, increased feed conversion, and affected bone formation. Aluminum was found dto accumulate in bone tissue, but was not found to accumulate in muscle tissue. It was thought that alum would increase intestinal strength, since it is an astringent. However, we found that high levels of alum decreased intestinal strength. Although high levels of alum were found to be toxic to young broiler chicks, we have concluded that alum can be used in the poultry rearing environment without harm to the chicks at the recommended rate of application of 100 g alum per kg of litter. At this rate of alum application it is not probable that toxic levels would be reached from the consumption of litter by the chick.

Technical Abstract: Two experiments were conducted to characterize the toxicity and evaluate the efficacy of alum to increase intestinal strength in young broiler chicks. Cobb X Cobb male broiler chicks were placed in an experimental design consisting of six dietary treatments of alum (control, .23, .47, .93, 1.9, and 3.7%) with four replicate pens of ten broilers per pen. The chicks were housed in electrically heated batteries and provided the treatments for ad libitum consumption from day of age to 3 wk of age. In Experiment 1, alum significantly (P less than .05) decreased body weights at 1.9 and 3.7%, and in Experiment 2 at .93, 1.9, and 3.7%. Feed conversion and the relative weight of the gizzard were increased in both experiments at 3.7%. Serum phosphorus was decreased at 1.9 and 3.7% in Experiment 1, and 3.7% in Experiment 2. Intestinal and bone strength were decreased in both experiments at 3.7%. Bone ash was reduced at 3.7% in Experiment 2, bone S levels increased at 1.9 and 3.7% in Experiment 1 and 3.7% in Experiment 2, bone Al levels were elevated in both experiments at 3.7%. Muscle levels of P and S decreased, and Ca increased at 3.7%. Aluminum levels were not elevated in muscle tissues. These data indicate that alum can be toxic to young broiler chicks, but at levels that would not be expected to be reached through litter consumption, and that alum did not increase intestinal strength.

Last Modified: 9/23/2014
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