Good growth and production in poultry and other animals depend upon good digestion. The digestive system needs proper care to ensure top performance. Supplementing the diets of birds with butyrate – a fatty acid derived from butyric acid – has many proven benefits in gut health.
The animal gut is the biological ‘engine’ of the digestive system that provides the power for development, growth and performance. As in other animal species, the avian gut is a complex and delicate system, with specific requirements for peak functioning. Optimal gut health contributes towards better health, welfare and performance. However, achieving this requires maintaining a sensitive and precise gut balance. Good nutrition, biosecurity, environmental- and health management can make a major contribution.
In trials, poultry diets supplemented with tributyrin gave an improved FCR, with 2% less feed required to realise the same daily growth.
[Photo: Bart Nijs]
Importance of optimal gut health
Poor gut health results in a compromised Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) and suboptimal growth rates. Since feed usually accounts for the majority of running costs for poultry producers, and as global feed prices continue to rise, ‘getting the most from each meal’ in poultry production has become even more important. This is not possible without optimal gut health.
“Good gut health is vital for achieving the best growth and FCR in any food producing animal,” said Richard Sygall, Perstorp Feed & Food’s market development manager. “The gut is a highly complex organ and maintaining its health involves optimising many aspects of management, but nutrition has been shown to influence gut health profoundly.”
Both diet and disease play an important role in the development and maintenance of the microstructure of the gut, which provides protection against pathological substances, as well as efficient absorption of nutrients. Within the gut lining are finger-like projections called villi that provide a large surface area to maximise the absorption of nutrients from food. Damage to, or alterations in this structure in particular can lead to a decrease in the gut area available for nutrient absorption.
In addition, birds with poor gut health tend to have a lower health status and are, therefore, more susceptible to diseases, such as coccidiosis – a disease that causes serious losses in the poultry industry. And with the trend towards reduced use of antibiotics in poultry and other animal production only growing, better health and immunity against disease has also increased in importance for producers.
Butyrate supplementation in poultry diets
Supplementing the diets of poultry (and other food animal species, including pigs and ruminants) with butyrate has well-known effects (Figure 1). All these factors in combination are thought to result in the improvements in FCR and weight gain, which can be observed after feeding butyrate supplementation for some time.
Figure 1 - The (local) effects of butyrate in the intestine
As a specialist in gut health and preservation, Perstorp Feed & Food continuously carries out research into gut health and preservation in food animal species and develops products that can improve this significantly. It produces several organic acids that are commonly used in the agricultural industry and constantly searches for new applications and benefits of these products for farmers and feed producers. Due to its proven benefits, butyric acid is an important product for Perstorp and its customers.
“With experience of ester technology in developing other products in other divisions, Perstorp realised that esterifying butyric acid with glycerol could improve its efficacy and handling qualities,” explained Koen Schwarzer, Perstorp’s Feed & Food’s innovation manager. “We discovered an opportunity to create a butyric acid solution for animal feed supplementation that was a generation ahead of the most commonly used solutions at that time.”
The resultant product – ProPhorce SR – consists of butyrins – the glycerol esters of butyric acid, which are not coated, but in ester form. When digested, these butyrins are hydrolysed after the stomach in the small intestine. Butyric acid is, thus, released and delivered where it is most effective. As the butyric acid in the product is in a highly concentrated form, less of it is needed than products containing coated salts of butyric acid, making it the most economically attractive alternative. The
formulation of the product ensures:
• Targeted delivery of the acid throughout the digestive tract
• Superior results compared to other formulations of butyric acid
• Cost effectiveness
• Superior handling
Consistently positive results
Perstorp has commissioned extensive research into the effectiveness of their butyric acid product in various species and production systems across the world. The research, which was carried out by partners including key customers, as well as leading academic research centres, has produced consistently positive results with dietary supplementation with the product across food animal species. One of the most recent studies in broilers carried out by the Shandong Agricultural University in China, showed that supplementation with the butyric acid formulation gave an improved FCR with 2% less feed required to realise the same daily growth.
“The study recorded that the length of the intestinal villi in the birds with diets supplemented with the product had increased by up to 35%. The bird’s feed uptake capacity was then enhanced by the strong development of the intestinal wall, so the feed could be used more efficiently and a lower feed conversion was achieved,” said Sygall. “Basically, supplementing with the product means less feed and better results.” This research is aligned with results that have been achieved with other trials of ProPhorce SR (Figure 2).
With its specific release properties, the butyric acid product proves a cost effective solution. Only small amounts are required. Liquid and dry forms of the product are available, which means it can be administered to poultry in drinking water or feed. Liquid ProPhorce SR is also available in an oil-soluble version. It is safe, convenient and easy-to-use. Stable as a pure product, in a premix or processed in feed and suitable for today’s feed manufacturing processes, it is also odourless.
Figure 2 - Efficacy of butyric acid* in broiler diets.
Contributing towards a competitive advantage
Pressures on all branches of the food chain are intensifying, with rapid growth in the global demand for protein, increased food safety awareness, industrialisation of farming, and the drive for more sustainable solutions.
“Feed plays a vital role in meeting these challenges, and organic acids have much to contribute,” added Schwarzer. “Effective tools that exert positive effects on gut health, such as this butyric solution are becoming even more important for producers looking to achieve a competitive advantage.”
References available upon request.