Egg Industry Presentations

Programmed to Succeed — Increased Efficiency and Improved Product Quality

Peter Ferket Ph.D, Professor, North Carolina State University

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Genetic selection is continually changing the production potential for the poultry industry. Expression of genetic potential is the prime driver of performance and profitability.   Early-life programming can turn on “thrifty” genes that permanently reprogram normal physiologic responses. These contribute to survival following exposure to environmental stressors, including moderate nutrient deficiency.  This increases the probability that genes are passed on to the next generation.  Poultry can be programmed to express desired phenotypic traits by modifying nutrition during the perinatal period, extending from 4 days before and after hatch. 

Based on the concepts of epigenetics, imprinting, and adaptive conditioning, several experiments have been performed by the Alltech-University of Kentucky, Nutrition Research Alliance, at the Coldstream Farm and at the Alltech Center of Animal Nutrigenomics and Applied Animal Nutrition.  Various nutritional programming strategies have been evaluated by applying  in ovo and post-hatch feeding.

By evaluating the expression patterns of key functional gene groups, it was determined that nutrients that affect homeostatic balance depend on the form of the nutrient, levels and interactions between nutrients, and the timing of administration.  By feeding chicks a specifically formulated diet during the first 96 hours post-hatch, it is possible to modify the function of the intestinal tract for more efficient nutrient utilization.  Metabolism can be programmed to enhance production efficiency, carcass composition, and meat quality.

Chicks that have been fed the appropriate conditioned diet, followed by a complementary growing and finishing diet, demonstrated improved growth and feed efficiency through to market age.  Calcium and phosphorus digestion are increased by 70% compared to controls.

A programmed nutrition strategy can change nutrient requirements and production efficiency and may yield a response greater than any single available feed additive.  Programmed nutrition has the potential to increase production efficiency & improve meat quality.  These advances can potentially-yield greater profits from poultry products.  Broilers that have been raised applying programmed nutrition have reduced carcass fat and yield breast meat that has a more appealing color, less drip during storage, improved oxidative stability and lower cooking loss.

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