Dr. Amit Kumar Das, Dr. Venket M. Shelke, Dr. Partha Das and Dr. Swati Karki
Kemin Industries South Asia Pvt. Ltd.
Managing stress is one of the most challenging aspects of modern day poultry production. It becomes important, especially during summer, when the ambient environmental temperature is more than the comfort zone of chicken. The high environmental temperature has a deleterious effect on the health and performance of birds leading to poor body weight gain, increase in feed conversion ratio, reduced egg production and increase in mortality of the birds. There are several mechanisms through which various stressors affect the health and performance of the birds. Osmotic imbalance at the cellular level and reduced digestibility of nutrients are a few of them. Several studies have shown that betaine has promising effects in mitigating stress (especially heat stress) and improving performance parameters of chicken. The present article discusses the osmoregulatory mechanism of betaine, its effect in improving digestibility of certain nutrients, and the performance of chickens.
The first commonly observed change during any stress is a reduction in feed and water intake. It becomes more evident during summer when higher environmental temperature leads to rapid water loss from the body. Either water deprivation, reduced water intake or diarrhea, leads to dehydration, and in severe case can cause mortality. Dehydration affects the osmotic balance in the body cells. Any change in cellular osmotic pressure will affect cellular metabolism. The body maintains its cellular osmotic balance by osmoregulation. Osmoregulation can be defined as the ability of a cell to maintain its structure and function by regulating the movement of water in and out of the cell. Generally, osmoregulation is managed by ion exchange in and out of the cells. But there is a limit beyond which, if ion concentration increases inside the cell, it affects cytoplasmic proteins & hamper cellular metabolism. Betaine is a natural osmolyte commonly found in several plants and marine animals for osmoregulation. Unlike ions, betaine doesn’t have any detrimental effect on cytoplasmic proteins. Betaine is recognized as the most potent osmolyte among all other organic osmolytes. Thus, betaine can be a good substitute as an osmoregulator to maintain cellular hydration and cellular metabolism, especially in summer.
EFFECT ON DIGESTION AND ABSORPTION OF NUTRIENTS
Betaine improves the digestibility of certain nutrients in the chicken intestine. Adding betaine to the chicken diet showed to improve crude protein digestibility. This improvement attributes to the effect of betaine in improving the osmotic balance of intestinal cells, leading to improved digestibility and absorption of the crude protein. Thus, more amino acids are available for building body and egg mass. The digestive system of chicken lacks enzymes for digesting fiber in the diet. Fiber digestion in the chicken intestine happens with the fermentation process of intestinal microbiota. Feeding betaine to chickens has shown improvement in fiber digestibility. The chicken intestinal environment is highly osmotically variable, which affects intestinal microbes as well. Betaine helps to improve the osmoregulation of microbes present in the chickens’ intestinal lumen. This prebiotic effect of betaine helps to improve gut microbiota, which in turn facilitates digestion of fiber present in the chicken diet leading to availability of more nutrients for absorption by intestinal cells.
Another vital role of betaine is its property as a methyl donor for various biological synthesis. Methionine is one of the important amino acids required by chicken. Methionine acts as a methyl donor for various biological processes, especially protein synthesis. Substituting betaine in chicken feed can help in sparing methionine requirement by chicken. Similarly, choline also plays a vital role in poultry nutrition and is required for several physiological functions. The major role of choline is its requirement for cell membrane and the neurotransmitter “acetylcholine” synthesis, and as a precursor of betaine. Choline is converted to betaine in the mitochondria of liver cells. The absorption of betaine in the small intestine is more rapid than methionine and choline. So, supplementing betaine in the poultry diet can help to reduce methionine and choline requirement, thereby reducing feed cost.
Several studies have been conducted to demonstrate the effect of betaine on chicken performance. It has been found that supplementing betaine in feed improved body weight gain and feed conversion ratio in broiler chicken. The inclusion of betaine in layer chicken diet has shown to improve egg production and eggshell quality. This performance enhancement attributes to the effect of betaine in improving digestibility and absorption of nutrients in poultry diet. Also, due to the methionine and choline sparing property of betaine, these nutrients are more available for the synthesis of protein. Betaine supplementation in broiler diets shown to reduce abdominal fat weight and more lean meat percentage yield, which is desirable for the chicken meat processing industry. The property of donating methyl group of betaine helps in the synthesis of lecithin, which facilitates transporting fat through the body. This, along with the reduced synthesis of lipogenic enzymes and more synthesis of very low-density lipoprotein helps in reducing abdominal fat content. Supplementation of betaine in broiler diet has shown to improve the performance of coccidia affected birds, and reduced the coccidiosis lesion scores as well.
Betaine is a promising supplement for chickens in reducing stress and improving performance parameters. The osmoprotective property of betaine helps in reducing the osmotic stress in chickens, especially during summer. This osmoprotective property aids in protecting the intestinal integrity, and improves the digestibility and absorption of certain nutrients. This enhancement in nutrient digestion along with functioning as a methyl donor for the various biological synthesis, helps to improve chicken performance parameters and carcass quality. Thus, supplementing betaine in chicken feed can help to improve the health and performance of chicken which leads to better profitability and economic gain in poultry farming.
Durim™ is an effective solution offered by Kemin for mitigating stress in chickens. It is a unique combination of Chromium propionate, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Betaine, which enhances immunity and addresses stress related challenges in the best possible way. Chromium propionate, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E reduces blood corticosterone levels (a root cause of all the stress related issues) and enhances immunity. Chromium being a part of glucose tolerance factor enhances the glucose utilization by cells by potentiating the activity of insulin. Vitamin C and Vitamin E, being natural antioxidants, reduce the oxidative stress in birds. Thus, Durim™ can help in reducing stress and improving the livability and performance of chickens during challenging conditions.
NOTES: References are available on request.