NOTTINGHAM TRENT UNIVERSITY researchers have developed a new way to add zinc to broiler diets that promises to improve its uptake in birds.
The technique is a novel method of producing nano minerals coated with amino acid and could have applications for other mineral supplements required to balance livestock diets.
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A study found the new method delivered improved bird weight gain and increased feed intake when compared with birds fed an inorganic zinc form.
The novel method improved digestibility, and there was also a positive impact on tibia strength.
Supplying minerals in nano form increases their bioavailability, meaning they are more effectively delivered to the body. And coating them with amino acid further supports their uptake.
Many plant- and animal-sourced poultry feeds contain zinc, but they also commonly have substantial quantities of phytate, which binds strongly to zinc preventing its absorption in the gastrointestinal tract.
This lowers the bioavailability of zinc in these diets to below the requirements for healthy growing poultry.
Zinc deficiency in poultry has been shown to cause slow growth, shortened and thickened legs with an enlarged hock and frizzled feathers.
Poultry diets are therefore routinely supplemented with additional zinc.
Emily Burton, professor of Sustainable Food Production at the university, said: “Zinc has such a positive effect on poultry health and growth that it is great to find a low-cost way of making zinc highly digestible.
“This means we can now use small amounts of zinc very efficiently, so the risk of polluting the environment with unused zinc in poultry manure is lowered.”
NTU’s Gareth Cave, the lead scientist on the study, added: “Nanotechnology is becoming widely adopted in a variety of different fields from medical imaging to plant food.
“In this study, we demonstrate how the improved bioavailability that nanotechnology offers can be used use in the farmed animal feed sector to increase animal welfare and production, while also reducing potential downstream environmental impact of farm waste.”
The study, which involved the university’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences and School of Science and Technology, is published in the journal Animals.