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The quality of broiler chicks is a serious issue and is viewed with great concern by the agroindustry, because, even before hatching, these birds are already exposed to several physical and biological risks that can weaken their health, increase mortality and bring significant economic losses throughout the entire production chain.
It is worth remembering that quality in broiler chicks means high viability, good uniformity, good weight gain and low feed conversion. Which makes it clear that mitigating physical and biological risks is decisive for the health of the business.
But practically, how can we minimize them? What are the main critical points that affect the early development of chicks and that need close monitoring? That is what we will talk about next.
Risks: physical and biological
When dealing with physical risks, the main ones are dehydration, poorly healed navel, locomotor problems, problems with down, malformations and unevenness. Although they are quite relevant and need attention, in this article I will focus on issues related to biological problems, especially those caused by Enterobacteriaceae, which are among the main pathologies that affect the intestinal health of broiler chickens.
Understanding biological risks
The most common contaminations are those caused by Enterobacteriaceae, such as Salmonella spp., Pseudomonas aeruginosa and, mainly, Escherichia coli (APEC). The latter has been a current problem for most companies, as it is involved in omphalitis, airsacculitis, salpingitis, peritonitis, pericarditis and cellulite. However, despite its direct influence, in most cases the avian pathogenic E. coli is not the only infectious agent involved: it is an opportunistic pathogen.
The important thing is to understand that, regardless of which Enterobacterium is involved, the intestinal microbiota in balance is essential to minimize problems and control contamination caused by these agents. In addition to contributing to the future development of broiler chickens.
Intestinal microbiota and its relationship to chick quality
The intestinal microbiota is composed of microorganisms, especially bacteria, that inhabit the intestines of chickens and are responsible for the production of energy, vitamins, enzymes and perform essential functions for their health and performance.
As the microbiota is not static, there must be initiatives that promote its balance, that is, maintain eubiosis throughout the entire production chain. This means that care starts with the broiler breeder’s microbiota, to mitigate the vertical transmission of pathogenic bacteria.
Probiotics and microbiota balance
So, how to work to favor this balance? One of the alternatives is the use of probiotics. They contribute to the formation of a balanced microbiota and, at the same time, stimulate the development and maturation of the innate and local specific immune system (GALT), resulting in better intestinal integrity of chickens.
When to start: early colonization
Intestinal colonization of chickens must begin in the hatchery with the application of competitive exclusion probiotics via spray, or with the “in ovo” inoculation of probiotics of multiple lactic acid strains, which can also be applied via spray, immediately after birth.
This will favor intestinal formation and increase protection against undesirable bacteria such as the pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli (APEC), paratyphoid salmonella and Clostridium perfringens, which will jeopardize intestinal integrity.
In other words: early colonization is the starting point for zootechnical gains, stimulating the immune system and hindering the colonization of pathogenic bacteria, which may be present in the feed, water, litter and poultry house environment.
After early colonization, it is important to keep the intestinal microbiota in balance throughout the life of the chickens, through the continuous use of probiotics and other additives such as organic acids, prebiotics and essential oils. After all, chickens are constantly challenged by pathogens that place at risk intestinal integrity and business profitability.