The Annual Challenge of Raising Healthy Birds in the Fall and Winter
As fall approaches, the high temperatures from the summer begin to fall, reaching levels below the bird's thermoneutral zone. A baby chick's thermoneutral zone is fairly high – about 88-93°F during the first week. In fall and winter, maintaining high temperatures inside the house becomes not only more difficult, but also more expensive. In some cases, baby chicks are kept below their optimal temperature because of these factors. Ultimately, this causes them to grow slower and become stressed, which opens the door to disease challenges.
The same principle applies to older birds, as reaching their thermoneutral zone also becomes more difficult in the fall and winter. Ventilation plays an additional role and often presents a challenge. Ventilation is marginal during fall and winter compared to the summer. During winter ventilation, cold air (instead of warm air, like in the summer) is brought inside the house, which then must be heated (of course, at a cost). Since the objective is to keep the birds warm at a low cost, ventilation typically decreases significantly during the winter months.1 This drop in ventilation causes the humidity in the litter to increase significantly, creating the perfect breeding grounds for enteric bacteria and coccidia to thrive. Ammonia levels in the house also rise due to decreased ventilation, which will make the birds more susceptible to respiratory challenges.
When an animal first encounters a stressor, the neurogenic system is activated. Failed attempts to combat or flee from the stressor immediately results in the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal cortical system.2 The activation of this system eventually leads to the proliferation of the adrenal cortical tissue, which in turn secretes corticosterone – a stress hormone.3 Previous studies have shown that these stress hormones have a negative impact on broiler growth and performance.4
Chromium supplementation has been shown to reduce the levels of corticosterone in birds, alleviating the negative impact of stress and allowing the birds to reach their full potential.5,6 Futhermore, chromium has been shown to improve performance in birds subjected to different types of stressors.6,7,8,9
KemTRACE® Chromium – the first product of its kind on the market – is a water soluble, highly bioavailable, organic source of chromium that helps improve glucose utilization and reduce the negative impacts of stress for increased cellular energy and function. This results in improved growth and immunity in broilers. KemTRACE® Chromium has been fed to millions of animals around the globe since its introduction in 2000. It is registered in more than 35 countries worldwide and is the only U.S. Food and Drug Administration-reviewed form of chromium propionate.
In summary, birds experience a wide array of stressors in the colder months: sub-optimal temperatures, humidity, wet litter, poor ventilation and high ammonia. Together, these stressors make the birds more susceptible to disease challenges. If we can lower the corticosterone levels in stressed birds, we can help them grow properly and be better prepared to face disease challenges.
1Imaeda N., 2000. Influence of the Stocking Density and Rearing Season on Incidence of Sudden Death Syndrome in Broiler Chickens. Poultry Science 79:201–204.
2Siegel, H. S. 1980. Physiological stress in birds. Bioscience 30:529–533.
3Holmes, W. N., and J. G. Phillips. 1976. The adrenal cortex of birds. Pages 292–420 in General, Comparative and Clinical Endocrinology of the Adrenal Cortex. I. Chester Jones and I. W. Henderson, ed. Academic Press, New York, NY.
4Dupont J., M. Derouet, J. Simon and M. Taouis. 1999. Corticosterone alters insulin signaling in chicken muscle and liver at different steps. Journal of Endocrinology 162, 67-76.
5E. Mirfendereski and R. Jahanian. 2015. Effects of dietary organic chromium and vitamin C supplementation on performance, immune responses, blood metabolites, and stress status of laying hens subjected to high stocking density. Poultry Science 94:281-288.
6Lester T., Brown K., Vignale K., Alvarado C., Lee J., 2018. Evaluation of chromium propionate and a butyric acid complex on male growth performance, corticosterone level and meat yield. International Poultry Scientific Forum. Atlanta, Georgia. Abstract M86, pg. 26.
7Vignale, K., Koltes D., Weil J., West S., Weimer S.L., Iseri V. and Christensen K.D., 2017. The effect of chromium propionate on performance responses in heat stressed male broiler chickens. International Poultry Scientific Forum. Atlanta, Georgia. Abstract T181, pg. 53.
8The Effect of KemTRACE Chromium on Broiler Performance During Heat Stress, TD-17-00187.
9The Effect of KemTRACE Chromium On Broiler Performance and Carcass Characteristics, TD-17-00208.
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