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Performance and gastro-intestinal response of broiler chickens fed on cereal grain-based foods soaked in water

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1. Two experiments were carried out to investigate the addition of 1.3 kg water per kg air-dry mash diets containing high proportions (600 to 700 g/kg) of ground cereal grains (wheat, barley or oats) on broiler performance and the structure and function of the gastro-intestinal tract. 2. Chicks at the age of 7 d were fed on the wheat-, barley- or oats-based diets in the dry or wet forms for 35 d. Food and water intakes were recorded daily while body weight was measured weekly. Two birds from each treatment were killed each week to measure gut size and the viscosity of gut contents. Tissue samples from various digestive segments were histo-morphologically examined to determine the thickness of tissue layers, size of tissue glands, villa heights, crypt depths and thickness of tunica muscularis . Crypt cell proliferation rate (CCPR) for each segment was also determined using a metaphase arrest technique. 3. The results from both experiments showed that wetting food significantly ( P <0.05) increased food intake, total water intake and body weight gain of broiler chickens. The body weight gains of birds were proportional to their food intakes so that the efficiency of food utilisation was similar for all treatments. Dry matter retention of food tended to increase in birds given wet food from 7 to 21 d but not thereafter, compared to the dry-fed birds. Although water intake from the water bottle was significantly ( P <0.05) reduced in birds given wet food, total water intakes from the water bottle plus that from food were significantly ( P <0.05) higher in the wet-fed birds than in the dry-fed birds. The ratio of total water to dry food intake was, however, similar in both feeding regimens. 4. The fresh empty weight of the gut was increased by wet-feeding while its relative weight to body weight and the length of gut was not affected by dietary treatments. Significantly greater development of the tissue glands in the proventriculus and gizzard was observed in the birds given wet food; this was associated with the reduced thickness of the muscular layer of these segments. An increase in villus height was also observed in duodenum, small intestine, caeca and colon of birds given wet food, compared to those given dry food. CCPR was significantly ( P <0.05) reduced by wet-feeding throughout the digestive tract. This was associated with a significant decrease in the mean viscosity of the gut contents and the concentration of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) in the caeca. 5. Wetting diets based on cereal grains caused a significant improvement in the performance of broiler chickens. The mechanism of the beneficial effects of wet feeding could be attributed to the decreased viscosity of gut contents; the greater development of the layer of villi in the digestive segments and the reduced CCPR in the crypts of the epithelium.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-03-01

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