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During the first week of life, broiler chickens undergo various developmental changes that are already initiated during incubation. Ongoing development of organs such as the gastro- intestinal tract and the immune system may affect the nutritional requirements during this age period. Despite the residual yolk that is available at hatch and that may provide nutritional support during the first days after hatch, the growth performance may be affected by the time in between hatch and first feed intake. Furthermore, it remains largely unknown to what extend nutritional composition of a pre-starter diet, as well as feed availability directly after hatch have an effect on physiological development directly after hatch, but also at later age. The aim of this thesis was to determine the impact of feed availability and feed composition provided during the first week of life on short-term physiological development, as well as potential long-term effects on growth performance of broiler chickens. Especially early hatched chickens were suggested to benefit more from direct feed access compared to midterm and late hatched chickens, as they tended to have a higher body weight gain during the first week after hatch. A delay in feed access for 48 h resulted in lowered body weight gain and feed intake when compared to direct feed access, but so did a short (13 to 26 h) delay in feed access after hatch. In the latter case, delayed feed access resulted in a lower weight to length ratio of the jejunum and ileum at 4 d of age compared with chickens with direct feed access. Although delayed feed access after hatch resulted in lower body weight gain during the first week after hatch and thereafter, it can be discussed whether this is truly an impairment of long-term growth or just a delayed onset of growth. With respect to feed composition, the inclusion of fish oil and medium chain fatty acids in a pre-starter diet had minor effects on humoral immune function. Inclusion of medium chain fatty acids did result in higher body weight gain and lowered feed efficiency during the first week of life, but only during the period it was provided. Feeding increased diet densities during the first week of life, obtained by formulating diets with different dietary fat levels, resulted in an increased gain to feed ratio, whereas body weight gain and feed intake decreased. Despite the shift in dietary energy supply from carbohydrates to fat and the perceived lower fat digestibility in young broiler chickens, nitrogen metabolizability and fat digestibility were not affected in the current study by feeding increased diet densities. The relative crop, liver and pancreas weights decreased when feeding increased diet densities, whereas the length of the entire intestinal tract increased. This suggests that broiler chickens repartition visceral organ development in response to feeding more concentrated diets during the first week of life. Interestingly, protein and fat accretion were not affected. Continued feeding of increased diet densities after 7 d of age resulted in increased BW gain, G:F ratio and metabolizable energy intake, but mainly during the periods that these diets were provided. In summary, even short durations of delayed feed access already impact intestinal development of young broiler chickens. However, a delayed feed access up to 48 h after hatch does not result in impaired growth, but only a delayed onset of growth. Even though digestibility of fats and oils may be suboptimal in young broiler chickens, feeding of these diets does not have to result in lowered performance per se. Young broiler chickens appear to adapt themselves towards high density diets with high fat inclusion levels in the first week of life, enabling them to digest and metabolize these diet types despite a suboptimal capacity for fat digestion. High density diets result in higher growth performance, but only for the period these diets are provided and thus carry-over effects at later age appear to be limited.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||31 Mar 2017|
|Place of Publication||Wageningen|
|Publication status||Published - 2017|
- animal nutrition
- poultry feeding
- carcass composition
- nutrition physiology
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