Trouw Nutrition hosts opening of Poultry Nutrition and Health Unit

Research focuses on supporting flock health and performance without antibiotics
calendar icon 20 September 2021
clock icon 7 minute read

The event convened customers, stakeholders from research and development, academia and poultry farming to virtually tour the new unit and learn about strategies to reduce the use of antibiotics in poultry production.

Research unit spotlights versatility, innovation, and transparency

The latest addition to the Trouw Nutrition Poultry Research Centre, the Poultry Nutrition and Health Unit, features four study rooms equipped to conduct different studies simultaneously. Researchers can replicate climate and environmental conditions such as humidity, temperature and stocking density to simulate production environments around the globe.

Each study room in the facility can accommodate 48 pens that can be adjusted to reflect different stocking densities. Seven water reservoirs per room allow researchers to randomize different water treatments. Digestibility and bioavailability cages facilitate precision nutrition research, including how tailoring ingredients can influence feed intake, nutrient bioavailability, and feed conversion ratios.

Microbiological technologies and data analysis support research at the facility. For example, scientists can combine molecular biology techniques such as PCR with traditional culture methods and then conduct additional analyses in context with flock performance data. The resulting insights assist researchers in standardizing animal models that improve understanding of poultry health concerns including malabsorption syndrome, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and dysbacteriosis. The facility is equipped to manage studies ranging from routine trials evaluating animal performance and carcass quality for meat processing to highly complex research reflecting challenging intestinal conditions and diverse production schemes.

Transparency and animal welfare are reflected in the facility’s design and protocols. An elevated visualization area allows visitors to watch studies in every research room. Trouw Nutrition’s external animal welfare committee oversees all studies and annual reviews are conducted to assure welfare benchmarks are maintained. Level 2 biosecurity helps protect birds housed inside the facility while guarding against pathogens exiting the facility.

The design, technologies and systems integrated into the Poultry Nutrition and Health Unit provide a high level of versatility to inform avian nutrition strategies
The design, technologies and systems integrated into the Poultry Nutrition and Health Unit provide a high level of versatility to inform avian nutrition strategies

A model approach for managing gut health

More than 75% of antibiotics used in poultry production are used to manage digestive problems in birds. Therefore, a tremendous opportunity exists to reduce antibiotics in poultry production by improving birds’ gut health. Filip van Immerseel, professor at the Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases at Ghent University in Belgium noted that most use of antibiotics for preventative purposes occurs in the first days of life and around three weeks of age, when rapid growth spurs microbial imbalances leading to inflammation and dysbacteriosis. Although there are different reliable methods to diagnose dysbacteriosis, research is investigating quicker and less expensive methods like biomarkers, which are validated now. Because dysbacteriosis is multi-factorial, and not caused by the specific Clostridium perfringens causing necrotic enteritis, the University of Ghent developed new models accurately mimicking field conditions. The correct model is crucial to developing the right solutions.

A process for more responsible use of antibiotics in livestock

Barbara Brutsaert, global program manager poultry health at Trouw Nutrition, described how Trouw Nutrition works with customers to reduce antibiotics on commercial farms. A new model at the Poultry Health and Nutrition Unit is helping researchers find the right solutions for customers’ next challenges.Brutsaert presented a six-step process shown to empower poultry producers’ efforts to reduce the need for antibiotics with at least equal, or improved, animal health, welfare and profitability. The integrated approach covers feed, farm and health management across the entire production chain. Brutsaert shared some examples of how Trouw Nutrition translates recently published FAO recommendations. For example, Trouw Nutrition reduces crude protein by formulating SID amino acids and nutrient kinetics. Additionally, its young animal feed offering is designed to optimize the nutrient intake of day-old chicks. Depending on local regulations, high copper and zinc, or synergistic organic acid blends, combined with a phenolic compound and patented lauric acid, are added to the feed to stabilise the intestinal microbiota and improve gut integrity. This approach has been proven in the field not only to improve performance, but also to reduce antimicrobial resistance to critically important antibiotics.

Farm level success

Jose Maria Diez Gata, director at SADA, described how the farm sought to proactively reduce antibiotics in its production rather than wait for legislative actions restricting antibiotic use. Practices that underlie SADA’s success in reducing antibiotics include sanitizing feed, assuring stable, sterilized drinking water, increased biosecurity and assuring the quality of one-day-old chicks. Properly training all workers on the farm was a very important aspect of SADA’s success. While the SADA team expected to see some consequences from the transition away from antibiotics, Diez Gata noted these challenges, such as an initial spike in mortality, were short lived and quickly resolved. Last year, SADA produced its label broiler without any antibiotics, and other chickens produced were about 90% antibiotic free.

Research and innovation drive strategy

Leo den Hartog, R&D Director at Nutreco noted that while reducing antibiotics is a long-standing challenge, it is also an opportunity for poultry producers to achieve equal or even greater performance in poultry production by applying an integrated feed-farm-health strategy. He added that Trouw Nutrition researchers recently contributed a paper published by the FAO that describes the integrated strategy for reducing antibiotics in livestock production.

Silke Birlenbach, head of global innovation at Trouw Nutrition said the investment in the new unit supports Trouw Nutrition’s mission of feeding the future while respecting the urgent need to protect human and animal health threats posed by antimicrobial resistance,

Closing the grand opening with a virtual tour of the unit, Ana Isabel Garcia Ruiz, research manager poultry, said the new unit complements a deep research infrastructure at Trouw Nutrition. This research network includes five research facilities around the globe, and 110 R&D employees who complete approximately 150 studies annually in conjunction with research partners and leading universities.

Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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