Gut health – A key investment for profitable poultry

Gut health, an intricate and complex area combining nutrition, microbiology, immunology, and physiology, has a key role to play in the efficient conversion of feed into its basic components for optimal nutrient absorption. Think Grain Think Feed in association with Dr Jeetendra Verma connected with leading nutritionists of the Indian poultry industry and a progressive poultry entrepreneur to get some tips on gut health and feed management. Below are the excerpts.
Dr S S Nadgauda
Initial days are crucial for gut health development
Gut health plays a very crucial role in commercial broilers, layers, and broiler breeders. Along with digestion and absorption of the nutrients, a large portion of the digestive tract also provides immunity to the birds by producing antibodies that protect the birds against diseases, called Gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT).
Chicks arrive at a farm with sterilized digestive tracts and whatever is fed first will grow. Here the concept of feeding beneficial bacteria and probiotics comes into the picture. If a proper environment with minimum bacterial contamination like sanitized water and feed is given to chicks then the gut development would be faster.
Tips for gut health

  • Biosecurity and a clean environment, and spray disinfectants at regular intervals.
  • Use probiotics that would increase good bacteria in the gut and will occupy maximum space.
  • Maintain this environment throughout the life of the bird with minimum use of antibiotics.

Genetic potential can be further explored
The genetic potential of the birds can be explored further as the bird performance at a company or research level is yet to be transferred to the industry.
Unconventional feed raw materials
In India, corn and soya-based diets are preferred for poultry. As per my observation, energy cost is higher than the protein cost, almost 45% of the cost is invested in energy, another 40% in protein, and the rest in vitamins, minerals, etc.
If the industry starts using maize alternatives like jawar, bajra, broken rice, etc., and soybean alternatives like mustard cake, sunflower cake, groundnut cake, sesame cake, DDGS, etc., as per availability in the region, it would reduce the cost burden of a feed miller. A farmer can get the same productivity and efficiency by using alternatives with enzymes proper utilization of alternatives, mycotoxin testing, and following strict inclusion levels.
Future trends
Many of the broiler integrators have already started their own retail shops and small-scale processing plants. This trend will grow further in the coming years but a majority of the market share will remain in the wet market. For the layer industry, the packed and nutrition-added eggs market will grow.
Shrikrushna B. Gangurde
Tips for gut health

  • Quality feed raw material and water input.
  • Proper ground feed particles.
  • Maintaining low pH by providing fiber and proper ground feed raw material.

Directly purchasing from farmers

For better quality and consistent supply, 8000+ soya and maize farmers are directly supplying the raw materials to our collection centers. We keep training these farmers with the help of the agriculture department and seed companies.
Future of the poultry industry
Back in 1997, when we started, worldwide there were 13 genetic companies while today it is only two worldwide companies having pure lines – Aviagen & Cobb. To fight against this monopoly, in 2015 we decided to come up with pure lines and by 2019 the first breeder line was ready. Today monthly production is 30 lakh parents and we are supplying 100% male line and 40% female line to Suguna – one of the largest integrators in the country and other breeders and integrators.
Invest for a consistent quality raw material
With such diversity in weather conditions, farming practices, etc., it is not possible to get consistent quality raw materials in India. But we can best utilize the available material by creating post-harvest infrastructure. It is essential to invest in storage and related technologies for a consistent quality product. Otherwise, one has to accept whatever quality is provided by the traders.
I would like to share our experience; we are getting the de-oiled cake with 50% protein and 4-5% moisture from our soybean processing facility while from another source the cake has 11-12% moisture. This is due to the addition of steam or fiber which is responsible for toxins and gut-health problems. To avoid such contaminations the poultry industry should also demand stringent quality parameters from traders and soybean processing plants.
Genetically modified feed raw material – the need of the hour
More than 89% of worldwide maize production is genetically modified which is still not allowed in India. While the chicken fed with this genetically modified soya or maize is allowed to be imported into the country. This needs to be changed and a farmer should not be intervened to get such technology. GM production is the way forward for better productivity and consistent end-product quality.
Famers can help themselves
Farmers should come together and instead of blaming it on others, they should follow models like Amul or Sahyadri or National Smallholder Poultry Development Trust in Madhya Pradesh.
Dr. S.S. Pattabhirama
Tips for gut health
With restrictions on using AGPs, gut health is becoming a bigger challenge. In such a scenario, farmers should adopt multiple approaches like multiple species probiotics, prebiotics, and sodium butyrate to improve the absorption of nutrients, and essential oils and herbal alternatives. Generally, it is considered that production without AGPs is expensive but in the last 3 years, I have observed it is possible to produce efficiently with little compromised performance.
Using alternatives efficiently
Digestibility is the major issue of using alternatives and to tackle that one should use enzymes like NSP. Though phytase is an integral part of feed formulation, apart from this, enzymes like xylanase and beta-glucanase should also be used. Also, pH should be well maintained. Practically, we are using a combination of different alternatives for up to 10% of feed formulation. Though there can be some compromise in production, there will be substantial savings in the feed cost.
Impact of alternative ingredients on the quality & taste of chicken
No, it doesn’t impact the quality & taste of chicken. The secret is to balance the digestibility of amino acids and mineral and vitamin content in the feed. As per my observation, the slaughtering age also matters. If a bird is slaughtered at 35- 37 days with a weight of 1.9 kg then there won’t be an issue in the quality.
Insect meal can replace soybean meal up to 7.5%
In trials, we were able to replace soybean meal up to 7.5% which is more sustainable but as the cost of insect meal on a large scale is still not known we are not able to decide on cost savings.
Growth prospects in the Indian poultry sector
The Indian poultry industry has grown at 12% per annum which was then reduced to 10% and now it is 7-8%. The growth rate in the future might slow down further but there will be a lot of changes, especially in consumer preferences. Chicken & meat consumption may increase at a faster rate in lower income group than in upper & middle income group.
Going forward the marketing strategies needs to be changed to target 2-tier and 3-tier cities.
FPOs in the poultry industry
FPOs hold a promising future for the Indian poultry industry where we can directly buy from them and both farmers and producers would get a better price. At present, Nandu farm is also working with FPOs. Also, the industry can educate the farmer about the quality requirement.
Advice for newcomers
They should be working more in the field, only then they will have a better understanding of ground realities. Even after spending more than 2 decades in the industry, I prefer to be on a farm at least 1 day a week.