Colonization of the gastrointestinal tract by pathogenic bacteria and resulting disease has deleterious impacts on gut health, development and overall broiler flock performance. Necrotic enteritis caused by the pathogen Clostridium perfringens, can reduce broiler feed efficiency by 2-3 FCR points.
Necrotic enteritis is caused by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens. It is known that feed is a fomite for C. perfringens and other pathogens capable of causing enteric disease. Feedback from poultry operations globally suggest that intestinal diseases are becoming a growing issue under antibiotic-free poultry production. The need for antibiotic alternatives has driven researchers to evaluate pathogen mitigation strategies used within broiler management and their impact on broiler health and performance.
Recent studies indicate that decreasing feed microbial loads mitigates pathogen entry into broiler production and GI tracts, further supporting enteric health leading to improving performance.
How is Broiler Production Impacted by Feed as a Fomite?
Feed is a fomite for enteric pathogens. Microbial loads in feed often vary, especially between ingredient types and growing seasons. These variable microbial loads associated with feed and feed ingredients serve as a stressor to the GI tract in broiler production.
Minimizing the entry of feed-source pathogens during juvenile gut development and ration changes reduces enteric stress, supports the development of a healthy microflora, and reduces the incidence of performance-limiting diseases such as Necrotic Enteritis.
In contribution to the body of literature evidencing the impact of feed-source pathogens on broiler performance, Anitox collaborated with Dr. Dan Moore of Colorado Quality Research to determine if feeding broilers a sanitized feed would enhance broiler feed efficiency, growth and performance, while challenged with Necrotic Enteritis.
New Research Evaluates Impact of Clean Feed During Necrotic Enteritis Challenge in Broilers
To determine how impactful feed sanitation could be in the face of a Clostridial challenge, researchers fed challenged broilers sanitized feed in various windows of the production cycle. All broilers were challenged with a field C. perfringens strain on day 17, with exception of the negative control. Treatment groups were as follows:
- Sanitized starter ration fed before the challenge (Days 0-17)
- Sanitized starter, grower and finisher ration (Days 0-35)
- Untreated starter ration and sanitized grower and finisher ration (Days 17-35)
- A challenged, untreated control group
- An unchallenged, untreated control group
The onset of necrotic enteritis resulting from a successful Clostridial challenge led to broiler mortality of over 40% in the untreated, challenged control.
Feed samples from sanitized and control diets showed that feed treatment with the feed sanitizer, Termin-8, led to significantly reduced feed microbial contamination. Generally, birds fed sanitized feed during the trial performed better than those who were challenged and fed the control-untreated diets. In fact, birds consuming sanitized feed exhibited improved body weight gain and lower feed conversion, lesions scores, mortality and oocyst shedding. This data suggests that feeding broilers sanitized diets mitigates the lesion score and mortality caused by necrotic enteritis, enhancing broiler performance under challenge conditions.
Clean Feed Supports Gut Health and Broiler Feed Efficiency
Feeding sanitized diets to broilers challenged in a necrotic enteritis model suggested that decreasing feed microbial loads supports gut health and therefore helps mitigate the impact of necrotic enteritis.
In fact, while lower lesion scores and broiler performance enhancements were consistently observed in all groups of birds consuming sanitized feed, it was more surprising that the broilers fed sanitized feed prior to challenge demonstrated lower mortality and reduced lesion scores. This suggests that reducing feed microbial loads during critical windows of gut development could enable broilers to better counteract to performance-limiting diseases, like necrotic enteritis. However, the specific mode of action is unclear.
Or maybe by limiting the introduction of feed-source pathogens to the gut, broilers are more able to elicit an immune response within the gut?
Overall, data from this experiment shows that sanitizing feed with Termin-8 throughout the entire trial yielded the lowest mortality, lowest feed conversion and enhanced overall performance. However, evidence suggests that benefits can also be achieved when feeding sanitized feed during early development, transitional periods or times when the risk of intestinal pathogen introduction is highest.
To learn more about feed sanitation and effective feed pathogen control programs, contact your clean feed expert today.
Check out our podcast, Frankly Speaking, to hear more about Dr. Moore and Dr. Montiel’s work.