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uniformity can suffer as afflicted birds experience stagnated growth while others continue to grow normally. Flock uniformity is a considerable factor in profitability as non- uniform flocks are more difficult to process and have downgrades. Wet litter is an important consequence of dysbiosis-induced diarrhoea. The gut lining and undigested nutrients may be re- leased in the excreta. Any mucus and undigested lipids in the excreta reduce the litter’s water holding capacity. Wet litter can cause multiple issues including foot pad problems (podo- dermatitis) and poor air quality that adversely impact flock health and welfare and, in turn, impact profitability.


Diagnosing dysbiosis Obtaining the chicks from a reliable source and attention to brooding management details (quality air, feed, water, temperature, and light) can promote the optimum development of a healthy gastrointestinal tract colonised by a stable microbiome. Evaluating the drinking water with laboratory testing (at least twice yearly, particularly during the dry season) to ensure the quality meets the flock’s requirements can be helpful. Care- fully choose feed enzymes and match them with local raw materials as enzymes impact substrates available for microbi- al fermentation. A good litter programme that includes re- viewing the ventilation system and its capability to remove moisture from the litter is important. Balanced diets play an important role in maintaining healthy intestinal microbiota. Poor-quality diets, putrefied animal protein, rancid fats, and anti-nutritional factors (toxins) can cause pathological changes by damaging the intestines or inducing dysbiosis. With dysbiosis, affected flocks will show signs of diarrhoea and increases in daily water intake. There


are no specific post mortem lesions. The small intestine may have excessive fluid content, have excess caecal contents, often contain gas bubbles, and the rectum may be stained with wet faeces. A definitive diagnosis of dysbiosis is challenging due to the non-specific nature of the symptoms; visualising intestinal le- sions and a microscopic examination of intestinal wall scrap- ings (to exclude coccidiosis) can assist. Success of antibiotic treatment is not guaranteed as there is no single taxa of bacteria appearing to be responsible for in- ducing dysbiosis. However, it is essential to eliminate other causes including coccidiosis, gut-associated viruses, or nutri- tional factors.


Several approaches practiced to control dysbiosis include: Apply a sound coccidiosis control programme


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Probiotics (competitive exclusion) and prebiotics may reduce the risk of dysbiosis


Acidifiers (feed additives) have been reported to provide some benefit


Reducing the risk of dysbiosis Given that the gut bacteria can be exposed to any ingested material, it is important to manage feed, water, and the house environment. Feed will be directly acted upon and used by the microbiome. Feed and ingredients testing and auditing suppliers can give valuable information when dysbiosis is suspected. Similarly, water and any water contaminants can directly benefit or negatively impact the microbiome. Finally, when the flock pecks at the litter, they ingest bacteria and fermentable materials. Keeping the litter dry will prevent bacterial overgrowth in the litter, which can reduce the risk of dysbiosis.


▶ GUT HEALTH | DECEMBER 2020 103


Keeping the litter dry can reduce the risk of dysbiosis as birds ingest bacteria and fermentable material if they peck at the litter.


PHOTO: COBB-VANTRESS


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