7 factors that affect poultry gut health

7 factors that affect poultry gut health

Photo by Austin Alonzo

Good gut health starts early, according to one expert

Good poultry gut health starts in the hatchery and can be altered by several factors, according to Marcos Rostagno of Phytobiotics N.A.

Rostagno spoke August 12 during the 2020 Midwest Poultry Federation Virtual Convention.

“If it doesn’t start well, it won’t end well,” he said about poultry gut health. “If you don’t have good chick quality, if you don’t focus in the first week or two of life of these birds, it doesn’t matter. … You have to start from the hatchery, you have to start from the first few days or weeks of life of these birds.”

By not setting birds up for good gut health in their first few days, it will cost producers much more later to try to fix any problems.

He said there are six key components of any poultry production system: genetics, husbandry, nutrition, health, environment and human resources. Nutrition and health put together lead to gut health.

“When you think about nutrition and health, you have nutrition as your main cost of production. … Then, you have the health side of it, which is your main cause of losses, or what we call attrition,” he said. “These two things together lead us to the problem of gut health.”

When it comes to gut health, Rostagno said there are several compromising factors:

  1. Microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa
  2. Immunosuppressing viral pathogens
  3. Additives, including antimicrobials and non-antimicrobials. These products try to manipulate or influence the gastrointestinal tract. Rostagno said producers need to keep in mind that what they use and how they use it may cause more harm than good. “You need to know exactly what you’re doing and how to do it,” he said.
  4. Mycotoxins, which can have direct or indirect effects, including immunosuppression, which can affect gut health.
  5. Feed and diet, including feed composition and texture/form, ingredient quality and management/feeding. Rostagno said this is more than just what’s in the feed, but also how that nutrition is provided; just changing feed form can change bird performance and gut health.
  6. Stress, including from management, environmental factors and heat. Rostagno added that heat stress affects animals’ gut health.
  7. Environment, such as cage vs. floor production. Birds raised in different environments have different exposures and therefore have different microbiota.