Modern poultry farming systems are managed with a high level of precision. From nutrition to livestock buildings through to health, each production parameter is precisely defined to correspond to animals’ needs and to help reach their optimal performance potential.

In such cutting-edge breeding systems, any single risk factor can cause an imbalance and can lead to serious negative physiological or behavioural consequences.

Furthermore, production standardisation creates a homogeneous environment which limits animals’ stimulation. Thus, being used to uniformity, birds are particularly likely to suffer when faced with any single environmental variation, which is then deemed as a stressor. All these parameters lead to an increase in the animal’s perception of stress.

Metabolic cost of stress

Due to cortisol levels being too high for too long, stress leads to reduced feed intake compared to what is normally expected, and sometimes leads to reduced immunity. The various impacts on performance which are induced by stress, mean that it causes collateral damage to high-performance production systems.

For this reason, breeders work on a wide range of production parameters to get as close as possible to reaching an animal’s genetic potential. Managing an animal’s perception of stress is an essential factor in reaching the goal of a multichannel return on investment.

This article presents the relevant results obtained from trials in which broilers and laying hens were treated with a unique plant-based solution. Most of these trials included a period of high temperature, which is a typical source of stress in poultry production.

Results obtained from broilers

Feeding behaviour modulation

In a hot climate, broilers naturally reduce their feed intake, especially under hot afternoon conditions, in order to reduce thermogenesis (Ain Bazis et al., 1996). As diet induced thermogenesis occurs four hours after feed intake, some producers stop feeding birds in the morning to avoid late afternoon thermogenesis. In such feeding patterns birds are expected to balance out this lack of consumption early the next morning. However, it is often found that as global feed consumption decreases, so does growth rate.

On an experimental farm in the Philippines (Trial A: 34 to 36°C, relative humidity > 80%), 20 000 broilers were divided into two groups (five replicate groups of 2 000 broilers). Hot conditions were particularly intense between 12:00 and 16:00 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Trial A: Daily feeding pattern of broilers from 30 to 35 days of age (%).

Broilers that received the plant-based solution, exhibited a higher feed intake during this heat stress situation. The solution reduced the feed conversion ratio under these hot conditions (-4%). This could be explained by a higher water intake during the hot period.

Growth rate

As time is money, chickens with a fast growth rate are a key economic factor for broiler production.

Figure 2: Trial B: Average daily weight gain (g/day/bird).

On four commercial farms in Mexico (Trial B), animals from the plant-based solution group exhibited a higher daily weight gain from week one to seven of the trials (Figure 2) – broilers that received the solution had a significantly (p < 0,001) higher (+8,8%) cumulative daily weight gain than the control group (55,4g/day/ bird vs 50,9g/day/bird).

Results obtained from layers

Feeding behaviour modulation

Under heat stress, birds try to reduce thermogenesis by reducing their feed intake (as feed digestion induces body thermogenesis) in order to adapt to high temperatures (Lara, 2013). In doing so, their production performance is also reduced.

On an experimental farm in the Philippines (Trial C: 33 to 35 °C, relative heat 80%), 20 000 laying hens were divided into two groups (four replicate groups of 2 500 laying hens.) In the control group, heat stress reduced feed intake (110g/bird/day to less than 105g/bird/day) based on peak temperatures (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Trial C: Feed intake of laying hens from 30 to 35 weeks of age (g/bird/day).

In contrast, the plant-based solution regulated feed intake, mitigating both variations and decreases in consumption. Birds adapted to the high temperatures more easily, without a decrease in feed intake and production.

Homogeneity

Animals react to their environment in various ways depending on their genetic makeup and their perception of environmental parameters. This leads to differences in maturity between birds, which can influence economic performance.

For example, pullets are usually fed based on the most immature pullet’s nutritional needs, which leads to a higher feed investment than the real feed requirements of the group. This explains why the homogeneity parameter is as economically important as average performance.

On a Mexican experimental farm (Trial D), 1 080 pullets were grown out for 17 weeks. Birds received the same diet, except for the group supplemented with the plant-based solution (250g on top/TM). At the end of the growth period (Figure 4), both groups of pullets had the same average live weight. However, the pullets that received the plant-based solution were larger than those in the control group. Heterogeneity was significantly reduced (p < 0,02). This resulted in a quicker and higher laying rate in the group that received the plant-based solution as the pullets were more mature and homogenous.

Figure 4: Trial D: Live weight at week 15.

The feed conversion ratio was also significantly (p < 0,005) lower in the solution group (-7,9%) compared with the control group (4,27 vs 4,6, respectively).

Effect of plant-based solution

The solution modulates stress perception, thus increasing broilers’ awareness of their environment, enabling them to better adapt to variations in production conditions. In broilers, the solution modulates feed and water intake, and improves heat tolerance and productivity parameters. In laying hens, it regulates layers’ feed consumption, which improves group homogeneity, leading to an earlier peak in egg production. This earlier peak of laying rate improves the feed conversion ratio.

In conclusion

The plant-based stress neuro-modulation solution counteracts the negative effects of stress. It aims to increase the animal’s level of awareness, improving its plasticity when facing environmental challenges and thus allowing it to adapt its behaviour for better performance. Due to its mode of action (Figure 5), which induces various biological chain reactions, this solution can have positive results on one or several parameters, depending on the challenges involved and the breeding conditions.

Phodé does not consider an animal as an association of systems or physiological
units, but rather as a unique entity integrated in its environment, forming a global balanced system. – By Jean-François Gabarrou, poultry market manager, Phodé, France

Mode of action

The plant-based solution’s active substances stimulate the animal’s olfactory sphere and transmit a sensory message to the areas in the brain dedicated to stress integration. The solution reduces the stress alert message and delivers a ‘better-being’ message through the release of endocrine neurotransmitters. This causes behavioural and physiological adaptations with positive effects on performance.

Figure 5: The mode of action of the solution.

With the plant-based solution, animals reach a general state of ‘betterbeing’, which allows them to adapt their reactions and reach their full potential.

For enquiries, contact Liezel Olivier of Olfactum Nutrition on 082 572 0141 or liezel@olfactum.co.za.