Advancement in technology has brought about a vast improvement in the production facilities followed in operations related to poultry and other modern livestock. Consequently the animal husbandry industry has also benefitted economically making it quite a profitable business. Some of the advancements which have effected this change are:
- Genetic selection to facilitate livestock with a high growth rate;
- Improvement in reproductive traits to ensure strong and healthy progeny;
- Management techniques have undergone a change for the better;
- Dietary requirements are supplied in the form of premixes formulated after years of thorough scientific research.
What is Gut health and its Role
However, there is a possibility that the limitations of genetic selection might cause this productive and economic growth to come to a standstill. In order to overcome this limitation, the concept of animal gut health was developed. This concept mainly concentrates on the ability of the gastrointestinal tract or gut, as it is commonly known, to:
- Perform the required psychological functions such as:
- Digestion and subsequent absorption of food;
- Stabilisation of the microbial population present in the gut;
- Gut barrier structure and its functions;
- Immune system functioning etc.
- Maintain homeostasis;
- Withstand both infectious pathogens and non-infectious stressors.
Factors Influencing Gut Health
All components and processes which have a direct or indirect effect on the gastrointestinal physiology, have a bearing on the gut health of an animal. Thus, in order to understand the state of an animal’s gut it is important to understand the interactions between the following components:
- Diet: This has probably the biggest influence on the state of the GIT or the gastrointestinal tract. The composition of the food taken including its ingredients, nutrients present and additives mixed, have the capability to alter the functioning of the digestive system, the immunity of the animal and also the micro biota. Thus, in order to maintain good gut health, the farm nutrition and diet needs to be optimised. Additives and premixes made by companies exclusively dealing in them, such as Champrix also need to be added in the correct proportion.
- Digestion and absorption: The proper functioning of these two very important processes of the GIT has a definite positive influence on the animal gut health. The presence of pathogens causing intestinal inflammation or those which lead to an increase in the defensive response of the body should be avoided at all costs. These pathogens hamper the functioning of the GIT thereby negatively affecting the health of the animal gut.
- GIT micro biota: An important contributing factor to several metabolic, structural and protective physiological processes, are the GIT micro biota. They help to keep the gut healthy and safe. Some ways in which the micro biota contributes to improved gut health are:
- Homeostasis regulation,
- Energy metabolism,
- Mucosal infection prevention,
- Immune system modulation etc.
- Gut mucosa: The inside monolayer of epithelium of the intestinal tract is covered by a mucosal layer which is secreted by the epithelial layer along with its underlying mesenchyme and dendritic cells and lymphocytes and macrophages. This mucus layer is protective in function and prevents the gut liming from getting adversely affected in any way by the various components of the diet and nutrition taken by the animal.
- Welfare: External factors, such as poor hygiene, adverse environmental factors, high stocking rates, stages of the reproductive cycle of the animals etc., also have a negative impact on the gut health and should be avoided at all costs.
- Effective immunity: When the immunity of the body is compromised, all physiological functions taking place within the animal’s body start to dysfunction. This will result in reduced gut health. In order to avoid this situation, care must be taken to ensure that the animal follows a properly balanced diet which can help keep its immunity system active and effective.
Determination of Gut Health
The gut health is determined by certain biomarkers which have been developed after years of research. Today they are also important factors which help in researching ways to improve the health of the GIT of the animals and thereby increasing their productivity. The important roles that the markers play are:
- Linkages to gut health is effected by systemic markers,
- Validation of factors concerned with:
- Normal gut barrier functions,
- Intestinal permeability,
- Epithelial injury and its subsequent repair etc.
- Specification of the guts involvement in the absorption, transportation and secretion of major elements,
- Helps to identify hormonal markers involved in the functioning or dysfunctioning of the neuroendocrine system of the GIT,
- Validation of the presence of both beneficial bacteria and bacterial by-products etc.
Since the evaluation of the health of the gut needs elucidations of interactions taking place between all the physiological processes connected to the gut. Many different markers or means of measurement methods are required. This comprehensive understanding of the gut has enabled research into the animal gut health to proceed both in basic and in applied directions. Thereby enabling researchers to address many a concern regarding food safety. This new research tool, which stems from the systems biology, is indeed a factor which has the potential to bring about yet another extremely viable economic and productive change in the animal husbandry industry.