Connection between intestinal health and egg quality
Genetic advances in animal production have enabled yield maximization in the last decades. Laying hens are, perhaps, the most representative species that validate it; current layers produce 50% more than in the 50s and 20% more than they did in the 80s. Keeping and improving egg quality standards at such high production rate poses a challenge for the industry.
Since 2017, egg producers in the United States had to adapt to the Veterinary Food Directives (VFD) regulations, which promote a sensible use of antimicrobials in animal feed. This new challenge has led producers and veterinarians to seek for new tools to achieve an adequate intestinal health that guarantees current production levels and egg quality.
Egg quality can be affected by multiple factors: intestinal health, water quality, nutrition – poorly balanced diets, vitamin and pronutrient deficiencies. One must also consider environmental conditions – high temperature, relative humidity, ammonia –, management – bird density and ventilation – infectious agents – viruses, bacteria and parasites –, stress and genetic factors.
Economic and technical success in animal production is closely linked to nutritional management, since it represents between 65 to 75% of the total costs. Another important factor is the state of the intestinal mucosa. Intensive egg production generates stress situations with multiorgan consequences in laying hens. Among them, poor condition of the intestinal mucosa, which leads to less absorption of nutrients, lower efficiency and lower egg quality.
Intestinal conditioner pronutrients are an excellent tool to improve egg quality. They are botanical molecules that have a positive effect on enterocyte’s physiology, as they stimulate the synthesis of functional proteins. Improving mucosal regeneration allows the animal to express its maximum potential (Picture 1).
Pronutrients activate certain genes in target cells – enterocytes –, optimizing the functionality of the organ. They do not have a pharmacological effect and do not create resistance because they work on cells’ physiology. Therefore, they do not leave residues in the egg and no withdrawal period is needed.
Intestinal Conditioner Pronutrients: good intestinal health allows better egg quality
The following trial was conducted at the experimental farm of the Mississippi State University (USA, 2018), and measured the efficacy of intestinal conditioner pronutrients in laying hens.
The objective of the trial was to evaluate the capacity of intestinal conditioner pronutrients to improve production parameters and egg quality, thanks to better mucosal condition and nutrient absorption.
For this trial, 65 weeks old laying birds were evaluated. Birds were separated into two batches. The control batch was supplied with a basal diet and the treated batch was given a basal diet combined with liquid intestinal conditioners at dose of 0,5 ml/L (Chart 1).
At the end of the trial, differences between the two batches were obtained regarding egg quality, productivity, histomorphometry and intestinal length.
Regarding productive parameters, a better (+2.9%) laying rate was obtained (Chart 2). Feed intake was reduced (-2.2%) and the conversion index improved (-2%).
Treated batch showed a higher concentration of carotenes in the yolk (+ 1.2%) due to a better absorption of pigments present in the diet (+ 4.8%). The yolk had better coloration and resistance (Chart 3 and Picture 2).
Measurement of the internal egg quality with Haugh’s micrometer helps testing albumen quality. The treated batch had an average value of 1.9% higher than the control batch. Egg weight was also slightly higher. Regarding the thickness and the weight of the shell, a slight increase was observed in the treated batch.
In addition, an increase in the number and thickness of the duodenal villi was observed, as well as a decrease in the total length of the intestine.
Conditioning of the intestinal mucosa with pronutrients improved intestinal absorption and allowed a better utilization of nutrients present in the diet, showing significant differences between both batches.
The optimization in nutrient absorption improved productivity, with an increase in the laying rate and a reduction in the conversion rate.
A better intestinal health in the treated batch allowed an efficient absorption of carotenes from the diet. This reflects in a greater intensity of yolk coloration and better internal egg quality.
Histomorphometry determined thickness increase of the duodenal villi, which correlated directly with an increase of the nutrient absorption surface. The significant decrease in the total length of the intestine was indicative of a higher physiological efficiency.
These results showed that intestinal conditioners are an effective tool to improve egg quality. In addition, its natural composition makes pronutrients a real alternative to antibiotics in the USA as they comply with current regulations.
Intestinal conditioner pronutrients produced by Biovet S.A are commercialized under the name of Alquernat Nebsui.