Associations between phenotypic characteristics and clinical parameters of broilers and intestinal microbial development throughout a production cycle: A field study

Jannigje G. Kers, Jean E. de Oliveira, Egil A.J. Fischer, Monique H.G. Tersteeg-Zijderveld, Prokopis Konstanti, Jan Arend Stegeman, Hauke Smidt, Francisca C. Velkers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Disturbances in intestinal health are a common problem affecting commercial broiler chickens worldwide. Several studies have revealed associations between health, production performance, and intestinal microbiota. This study aimed to describe the development of the intestinal microbiota of broilers within a production cycle to evaluate to what extent clinical parameters and phenotypic characteristics can explain the intestinal microbiota variation. Of four well-performing flocks within two farms, the cecal content was collected of nine broilers at 0, 2, 4, or 5, 7, 11, or 12, 14, 21, 28, 35, and 40 days of the production cycle. In total, 342 samples were analyzed using 16S ribosomal RNA gene amplicon sequencing. Variables as macroscopic gut abnormalities, gut lesions, age, individual body weight, sex, footpad integrity, the color of ceca, and foam in cecal content were determined. Ileum tissue was collected for histological quantification of villus length and crypt depth. Flock infection levels of the intestinal disease coccidiosis were measured in pooled feces from the poultry house. Increases in phylogenetic diversity were observed from hatch until day 21 of age. Constrained multivariate analysis indicated that age, farm, body weight, ileum crypt depth, cecal color, and the coccidiosis lesion score were important variables to describe the variation in cecal microbiota. These results contribute to determining relevant variables in flocks that may be indicative of the intestinal microbiota composition. Moreover, this knowledge increases the awareness of interactions between the intestinal microbiota and broiler health as well as their relative importance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1114
JournalMicrobiologyOpen
Volume9
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • 16S rRNA gene
  • cecal microbiota
  • field study
  • phenotypes
  • poultry

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