The Importance of a Healthy Gut

The gastrointestinal tract is responsible for important metabolic functions in broilers. If Intestinal Integrity is lost, digestion and absorption of nutrients are reduced, which can significantly compromise bird performance, welfare and profitability.  

The Threats to Intestinal Integrity 

Intestinal Integrity relates to the condition of the lining of the intestine and is defined as the optimal functionality of the intestinal tract. It performs vital metabolic functions, specifically the digestion, secretion, absorption and transfer of important nutrients.  

Many factors can affect Intestinal Integrity in birds, including poor on-farm management, antinutritional factors, viral challenges and feed/dietary challenges. However, the biggest threat to Intestinal Integrity is coccidiosis.  

Each of these factors can disrupt birds' microbiome stability, which plays an important role in health and disease. Microbiome stability is needed to maintain a healthy digestive tract, regulate the cardiovascular system and support host defense functions. Low microbiome stability therefore decreases a bird's ability to withstand the many threats to gut health and can cause intestinal damage.  

Intestinal damage and inflammation caused by coccidiosis leads to mucus production in the intestine and encourages clostridial growth. In time, this may lead to clinical or subclinical necrotic enteritis, which is a major risk to broiler performance and welfare.  

Necrotic enteritis can lead to wet litter.1 Wet litter can be very detrimental to broiler health, causing footpad lesions, hock burns and breast blisters.1  

The True Cost of Poor Gut Health  

Without Intestinal Integrity, protein normally used for muscle development is redirected to repair intestinal tissue, leaving less energy available for growth and performance.  

In particular, poor gut health can decrease feed conversion, reduce yield and decrease processing efficiency.2,3  

Global economic losses from coccidiosis are estimated to be U.S. $3 billion per year.2 Per bird, coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis together can cost around U.S. $10.20,4,5 with most of this coming from lost performance.  

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1 Dunlop MW, et al. Science of the Total Environment. 2016; 562:766-776.  

2 Kadykalo S, et al. International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents. 2018; 51:304-310.  

3 Elanco data on file.  

4 Williams RB, et al. Int J Parasit. 1999; 29:1209-1229.  

5 Van der Sluis W. World Poultry. 2000; 16:42-43.  

6 Kasab-Bachi H, et al. Preventative Veterinary Medicine. 2017; 146:130-135.