Effect of prebiotic on gut development and ascites incidence of broilers reared in a hypoxic environment.
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Modern broilers have been genetically selected for an increased growth rate and improved feed conversion, but they are also more susceptible to ascites. Ascites occurs when there is an imbalance between available oxygen and the oxygen demand of the broiler. We hypothesized that promoting neonatal gut development with a prebiotic, such as Aspergillus meal (Prebiotic-AM), would enhance gut efficiency, decrease the oxygen demand of the gut, and reduce ascites incidence. In this study, we compared the effect of Prebiotic-AM on ascites incidence and gut development in commercial broilers reared at a local altitude (390 m above sea level) and a simulated high altitude (2,900 m above sea level). Half of the birds received a National Research Council recommended corn-soybean ration, and the other half received the same ration supplemented with 0.2% Prebiotic-AM. These 2 groups were further divided into a local altitude group and a simulated high altitude group for a total of 4 treatment combinations. Tissues were collected on d 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21 from the duodenum and lower ileum and placed in 10% buffered formalin for morphometric analysis. At a simulated high altitude, ascites incidence was 68% for birds fed the Prebiotic-AM supplement compared with 92% ascites incidence in birds given the control feed. The simulated high altitude decreased (P < 0.05) gut development, but prebiotic-treated birds reared in hypoxic conditions had similar gut development to control birds reared at local altitude. These data suggest that a feed ration supplemented with Prebiotic-AM may reduce the effect of hypoxia on broiler gut development and ascites incidence.