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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Animal Biosciences & Biotechnology Laboratory » Research » Research Project #442615

Research Project: Nutritional Strategies to Improve Production Efficiencies in Broiler Chickens

Location: Animal Biosciences & Biotechnology Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-31000-114-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 3, 2022
End Date: Aug 2, 2027

Objective 1: Assess, develop, and apply microbiome- and metagenomic-based strategies to define the development and function of the microbiota and to characterize manipulation of microbiota to improve nutrient uptake and utilization in the gastrointestinal tract of broilers. Sub-objective 1A: Using metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and metabolomics to define the biological function of the chicken microbiota during PH growth. Sub-objective 1B: Determine the effect of in ovo delivery of nutrients, probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics on microbiota development, gut health, and broiler performance. Sub-objective 1C: Assess early-life-intervention strategies including microbiota manipulation to improve gut health, nutrient digestibility and availability, growth performance and well-being of broilers. Objective 2: Evaluate the dosage and the mechanism of short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) supplementation as an alternative to chemotherapeutic and antimicrobial agents. Sub-objective 2A: Determine the dosage of SCFAs in Eimeria infected broiler chickens that is effective in decreasing FCR and increasing BWG while being readily ingested. Sub-objective 2B: Determine the effect of SCFA and coccidiosis on the GIT integrity and transport of nutrients. Sub-objective 2.C: Examine the anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of SCFAs in coccidia infected birds. Objective 3: Reevaluate nutrient digestibility and utilization in the absence of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) and determine the potential of antibiotic alternatives (ATAs) for improving intestinal health, nutrient utilization, and maintaining production performance. Sub-objective 3A: Conduct further investigation of the mechanisms of action of different antimicrobial alternatives and antibiotic growth promoters on intestinal digestive and barrier function, nutrient utilization, and correlate changes with intestinal microbiota profile in broilers. Sub-objective 3B: Evaluate the effects of ATAs on nutrient digestibility and intestinal oxidative status and absorptive capacities in broilers fed mycotoxin-contaminated corn and/or soybean meal or other inducers of oxidative stress (such as oxidized dietary oil or deoxynivalenol). Sub-objective 3C: Evaluate and determine the optimal dose of Euglena gracilis containing ß-1,3-glucan as a potential ATA on gut health and growth performance of broilers.

Feed accounts for 70% of the total cost of poultry production. Improving feed efficiency (FE) is crucial to increase profitability and sustainability in animal production. Over the years, improvement in performance and FE (measured as a feed conversion ratio, FCR) has been achieved through genetic selection and the use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs). The recent ban on antibiotics as AGPs requires research to discover suitable alternatives to antibiotics (ATAs) that will sustain or improve FE, animal health, and chicken productivity. The project’s overall goal is to identify novel nutritional strategies to improve FE and growth parameters in broiler chickens in the absence of AGPs. First, the role of gastrointestinal microbiota in FE and poultry production will be assessed by a comprehensive experiment to determine microbiota function. Second, the project will investigate early-life-intervention to improve FE and broiler production, by defining the effects of microbiota manipulation through in ovo deliveries or early feeding of nutrients, probiotics, and synbiotics. Third, it will address the role and mechanism of action of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) as an alternative to chemotherapeutics and antimicrobial agents. Finally, the project will determine the effects of the absence of AGPs and the presence of ATAs on nutrient digestibility and utilization. Outcomes of the research directly benefit producers and consumers in terms of economic return and confidence in food security.