Poultry is commercially raised with the sole intension of producing eggs and meat. Hence care must be taken to ensure that they are able to have a healthy growth so as to be able to fulfil the commercial requirements. While a clean and healthy environment is a major contributor to maintaining a healthy brood, diet is another area which needs to be looked into.
For poultry the diet has to be rich in proteins and energy giving ingredients for these are the two nutrients that are majorly required by them. While naturally occurring food matter is important, it is generally not able to fulfil these requirements and thus feed additives being commonly used.
Some naturally occurring food
Some energy providing food materials are:
- Cereals in the form of barley, corn, wheat, sorghum etc.,
- Fats and oils like tallow, lard, poultry fat, yellow grease etc.
Some food materials which are good sources of proteins are:
- Canola, a variant of rapeseed,
- Fish meal,
- Field peas,
- Meal comprising of bone and meat which is the recycled slaughter by-product,
- Cereal by-products like seed coat, grain hulls, bran, gluten feed etc.
But most of the times these naturally occurring nutrient rich foods have to be supplements by feed additives for chicken feed. Addition of these additives is extremely conducive to the commercial production of safe chicken meat of very high quality. In addition to this they also contribute to the natural well-being and health of the poultry birds while at the same time keep a check on its impact on the environment.
What are feed derivatives
Feed additive can be defined as one single ingredient or a collection of ingredients that are added to the most basic feed mix so as to achieve a desired result of fulfil a basic need. These feed derivatives are generally used to:
- Alter the metabolism in poultry,
- Bring about a positive effect on their growth and immunity,
- Change the body pH and reduce acidosis,
- Manipulate microflora,
- Improve the digestion of the birds,
- Bring about an improvement in its palatability,
- Reduce faecal odour etc.
However, the use of these additives needs to be done in a way so that:
- Human and animal safety is not compromised,
- Additive efficiency can be maintained and
- There is minimal impact on the environment.
Types of feed additives
Feed additives for chicken feed which are commonly used are:
- Antimicrobials: These are extensively used in the modern intensive methods of poultry operations to:
- Minimise instances of diseases occurring in poultry stock,
- Bring about an improvement in their immunity,
- Support their growth,
- Help to utilise food better.
While these do not improve egg production, there is a definite improvement in the production of safe chicken or poultry meat.
- Feed enzymes: Enzymes are generally proteins which act as catalysts to facilitate and at times also enhance the rate of certain chemical reactions taking place in the body of living beings. For animals these enzymes are generally produced by the microflaora present in their guts. But there are times when either the production of these enzymes is not enough to meet the required poultry body requirements or are not present in the place where they are most needed. Hence the addition of enzymes, harvested externally from microbial fermentation, in poultry feed can help solve the problem resulting in better quality of poultry stock.
- Antioxidants: Free radicals of oxygen are present within the body of poultry birds due to its normal metabolism. They can also come from the chemical reactions taking place on the feed ingredients ingested. These free oxygen radicals can lead to oxidative stress which can affect the health and general well-being of the birds. Antioxidants tend to bind these free oxygen radicals thereby reducing their ability to cause harm to the body.
- Acidifiers: These are added to poultry feed to reduce the pH of the gut environment thereby inhibiting or partially restricting the growth and development of the common pathogenic microbes present in the intestine. Acidifiers added can be in the form of organic and inorganic acids or their associated salts. In fact organic acids have also been known to promote the health and performance of the poultry birds.
- Probiotics: These are live microorganisms which either exist singly or in a mixed group and are absolutely non-pathogenic. They are also resistant to gastric acids and bile and benefit the host when ingested by:
- Inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria and
- Competing with these pathogenic micro-organisms are food and space within the intestine of the host.
The addition of these feed additives in the food of poultry birds used for commercial production of safe meat and eggs helps in the birds in more ways than one. In fact people have only just started to understand the importance of these additives and concentrates. And a lot of work has yet to be done to understand the full extent of their benefits.