Evaluation of an Extract Derived from the Seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum to Reduce the Negative Effects of Heat Stress on Broiler Growth and Stress Parameters.
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Heat stress is one on the main welfare issues that broiler chickens face and it can lead not only to decreased welfare but production as well. The seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum has demonstrated the ability in several species to decrease body temperature and affect immune function. To determine whether adding an extract of this seaweed into the diet of broiler chickens would decrease the negative effects of prolong heat stress on broiler growth, a study was conducted. Broilers were fed a control diet with the seaweed extract added at a rate of 0.5 kg/metric ton of feed throughout a 42-day growout or just a control diet. Half of each feed treatment was exposed to two weeks of heat stress (35 C for 16 h/day) starting at d28 and continued until the end of the trial. Therefore, there were four treatments: a control non-stressed (CNS), control heat stressed (CHS), seaweed-supplemented non-stressed (SWNS), and seaweed-supplemented heat stressed (SWHS). To determine stress susceptibility, the following measures were collected: bilateral asymmetry (ASYM, n = 60), heterophil to lymphocyte ratios (HL, n = 24), plasma heat shock protein 70 (HSP70, n = 24) and plasma corticosterone concentrations (CORT, n = 24). Feed conversion, uniformity and weight gain were also determined. The CHS birds had higher (p < 0.05) CORT, ASYM, HSP70 and HL than the CNS, SWNS and SWHS birds. The CNS and SWNS birds did not differ (p > 0.05) in body weight at d42 but they were both heavier (p < 0.05) than in both the heat-stressed treatments. Furthermore, the CHS weighed less (p < 0.05) that the SWHS birds. The non-heat-stressed treatments did not differ (p > 0.05) from each other in FCR, however the two heat-stressed treatments did differ (p < 0.05) from each other in FCR, with the SWHS birds having better FCR than the CHS birds. Heat stress affected bird uniformity with non-heat-stressed treatments having more (p < 0.05) uniformity of body weights within a pen than the heat stress treatments. These results demonstrate that adding this seaweed extract to the feed of poultry can reduce their stress during a prolonged heat stress event, though it had no effect on growth or feed conversion. This feed additive could be used to improve the welfare of poultry during heat stress events.