THE link between intestinal health and sustainable broiler production is the subject of a new whitepaper authored by experts from the Monogastric Science Research Centre at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

The aim of the whitepaper, Intestinal Integrity – a critical parameter in sustainable broiler production, is to substantiate the importance of closely monitoring and managing poultry intestinal health.

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It was launched ahead of this year’s South West Chicken Association conference in late April.

It is underpinned by an extensive literature review, led by SRUC’s Dr Marwa Hussein, and substantiates the importance of closely monitoring and managing poultry intestinal health.

“The broiler industry is under pressure to meet sustainability challenges while increasing access to safe and affordable poultry meat,” said SRUC’s Professor Jos Houdijk, co-author of the white paper.

“A heightened focus on intestinal health and integrity will prove very valuable in addressing these challenges and achieving progress.”

Gut health

He added: “There have been big sustainability gains made thanks to genetic improvements, but maintaining this advantage is sensitive to gut health.

“A reduction in the Intestinal Integrity (I2) score for a current flock of broilers effectively cancels out years, if not decades of genetic selection.”

The new whitepaper was commissioned to examine factors which impact broiler intestinal health, and to assess the value of Elanco’s Health Tracking System (HTSi) and I² index as a means of achieving incremental improvements in this area.


“The paper outlines the negative impact key intestinal diseases – such as coccidiosis, gizzard erosion, necrotic enteritis, and proventriculitis – can have on broiler performance through increased feed conversion ratio (FCR), morbidity and mortality,” added Prof Houdijk.

“It also highlights the significant value Elanco’s HTSi database and I² index offers, for monitoring and managing flock intestinal health, bird performance as well as welfare, profitability and sustainability.”

The I² index is a weighted index that gives flocks a score of between 0 and 100, based on 23 health conditions which are known to negatively impact intestinal health.

For many farms, a score of 90 or below is an indication that poor intestinal health is having a significant impact on FCR and bird performance, and poorer I² scores are linked to a rise in antibiotic usage as well as an increase in the amount of feed, water and space required per kilo of poultry meat produced.

The whitepaper can be downloaded at Elanco’s website.

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