We caught up with Mercedes Vazquez-Anon, director of animal research at Novus, at IPPE in Atlanta.
She said the company is trying to increase its knowledge around gut health and poultry production including the areas of digestion, controlling for microflora, reducing inflammation and improving the barrier function in the gut to reduce leakage or the ability for pathogens to enter, she said.
Novus presented several abstracts at the expo. These included papers on the use of phytase on performance, bone ash and mineral digestibility; the interaction between wooden breast myopathy and dietary oxidized fat; and use of essential oils and organic acid on growth and gut health in challenged broilers.
The company has also been exploring the link between maternal nutrition and gene expression in the chick, said Vazquez-Anon.
“We studied zinc and what we found was that zinc in the mother regulates the expression of genes in the chick, more than zinc fed to the chick, where it has an effect is gut development and gut immune system,” she said.
Zinc can act as an anti-inflammatory, explained Vazquez-Anon. “Now we understand how zinc does it. At the gene level, zinc is inhibiting the cascade reaction of the pro-inflammatory proteins very early,” she added.
Next steps in its ongoing effort to optimize gut health in poultry include the examination of how diet interacts with vaccine use, as well as identification of methods to improve digestion and reduce inflammation, said Vazquez-Anon.
“We see those are the areas where we want to have a better handle,” she said. “We’re always looking for new products to be able to do those things and we use models to evaluate more prototypes.”
Zinc and copper precision
Another area that the company has been investigating is the reduction of zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu) used in bird diets, said Vazquez-Anon.
Concerns over the amount of the minerals found in fecal matter, and questions over Zn/Cu levels in feed and antibiotic resistance in bacteria are leading to a push to limit amounts of such minerals in livestock production..
Novus has been finding that when bio-available versions of the trace minerals are used, adding excessive amounts can be counterproductive, she said.
“The benefits of chelated [minerals] is that you are providing the right amount,” she said. “You reduce the interaction and antagonism with the minerals, and it’s better for the environment and you reduce the antibiotic resistance.”
Novus also has been tracking digestibility of feed ingredients in local markets. “We do research in the US, in Latin America, in China, because we realize that conditions are different, needs are different, regulations are different so we want to adapt to local needs,” added Vazquez-Anon.
That work has also had wider ranging implications in terms of learnings around skin healing or reduced scarring, she said. “We studied the genes that are involved in the process of wound healing and how nutrition can help that process,” she said.
That research led to a way to address footpad lesions, she said. A reduction in lesions is taken account of in some countries when measuring overall bird welfare, noted Vazquez-Anon.