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.
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