Moldy feed can damage your gamefowl's gut and causes necrotic enteritis
Dr. Isa Jaro, DVM
Sabong Depot Poultry Supplies
Animal Nutrition Department
New research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) National Poultry Research Center has revealed that even low levels of mycotoxins in corn and corn byproducts can damage the your gamefowl's gut and predispose chickens to necrotic enteritis.
Gut Health in Gamefowl Industry
As per Revathi Shanmugasundaram, a research biologist at the National Poultry Research Center, gut health is of utmost concern in the gamefowl industry as the intestinal tract is the first site of contact for mycotoxins, and intestinal epithelial cells are the first target cells exposed to the highest concentration of mycotoxins.
Shift in Gut Microbiome Profile and Infectious Diseases
The study suggests that shifts in the gut microbiome profile due to mycotoxins in poultry feed can lead to the onset of infectious diseases, such as subclinical necrotic enteritis in poultry flocks.
FDA Regulations on Mycotoxin Levels in Poultry Feed
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows the use of mycotoxins in poultry and livestock feed but only at low levels. Shanmugasundaram further explained that mycotoxins are toxic chemical compounds produced by fungi, which contaminate corn, including aflatoxins, trichothecenes, fumonisins, and zearalenone. Each of these toxins poses different risks depending on the level of contamination and the animal species that consumes the contaminated feed.
Screening Tools to Determine Mycotoxin Levels in Poultry Feed
There are screening tools to determine the level of mycotoxins in poultry feed, but the results can sometimes be misleading when multiple mycotoxins are present. In fact, 92% of poultry feed samples analyzed in 2021 contained more than one mycotoxin, according to Shanmugasundaram.
Necrotic Enteritis and Mycotoxin Link
The study found that fumonisins and deoxynivalenol negatively impacted the body weight gain and feed conversion ratio (FCR) of broilers, along with the morphology of the small intestine. These toxins also significantly increased the incidence of necrotic enteritis in broilers. Necrotic enteritis is an acute infection in gamefowls caused by the bacteria Clostridium perfringens. Sudden changes in feed formulation, such as the addition of high levels of fish meal or wheat, can disturb the intestinal microflora, leaving the gut vulnerable to infection.
Although the level of fumonisins and deoxynivalenol in the experimental diets of the study was much lower than the FDA tolerance levels, the study identified the mechanism through which these toxins synergistically affect chickens and predicted the specific thresholds of these toxins when present together. Therefore, it is necessary to be vigilant and monitor the level of mycotoxins in gamefowl feed to avoid gut health issues and infectious diseases, leading to economic losses in the gamefowl industry.