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Fast Establishment of Beneficial Microflora for Poultry Performance

Using probiotics to establish healthy gut microflora in poultry can positively impact weight and mortality rates.

Gangga WidyanugrahaLuis Valenzuela

In Brief

• Removing antibiotic growth promoters from poultry feed has made it more difficult for producers to manage bacterial challenges in birds.
• Using probiotics is one way to support gut health, increase performance and mitigate bacterial challenges.
• A study of a probiotic/prebiotic solution added to feed (PoultryStar®) showed a decrease in mortality and increase in live body weight.

The most prevalent issues in poultry industry are diseases (e.g. dysbiosis, coccidiosis, necrotic enteritis, lameness caused by Bacterial Chondronecrosis with Osteomyelitis (BCO), Gram-negative pathogens like E.coli), regulatory issues, food safety (e.g. Salmonellosis and Campylobacteriosis) and antibiotic growth promoter (AGP)-free poultry production.

The main objective in poultry production is to achieve high quality products at high levels of productivity. The key for producers to achieve this goal is to avoid bacterial challenges e.g. from feed, water, environment, gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and to mitigate mycotoxins. Doing so without the use of AGPs requires different strategies that focus on prevention and promote good gut performance.

Removal of Antibiotic Growth Promoters

Traditionally, AGPs have been supplemented in poultry feed to improve performance and mitigate the negative effects of pathogens that colonize the GIT. Most of these pathogens are Gram-negative bacteria that have a lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or endotoxin layer. Release of LPS in an animal’s bloodstream can cause severe health problems in poultry and aggravate the effects of heat stress.

Concerns about potential development of antibiotic resistance due to excessive and unregulated use of AGPs have led to regulations banning their use in Europe and consumer pressure with the same objective in North America (Dahiya et al., 2006; Naidoo et al., 2008; Shirley et al., 2007). The ban on AGPs in poultry diets has been accompanied by an increased incidence of certain diseases, raising interest on alternatives to be used in poultry production (Van Immerseel et al., 2009).

Beneficial Bacteria for Poultry

The use of probiotics can be an alternative way to increase the performance of production in poultry. Several microorganisms are currently used as probiotics in animal nutrition with remarked differences regarding their properties, origins and modes of action. They can be divided into three main groups: Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB), Bacillus spore formers and yeasts. 

Genera like Lactobacilli, Pediococci and Enterococci which belong to the group of LAB and Bifidobacteria, are currently very well-studied probiotics and considered as drivers of gut health. LAB are part of the indigenous microflora that permanently colonize the intestinal tract whereas Bacilli and yeasts are considered as transient microflora. 

How Probiotics Support Gut Health

Supplementation with the right probiotics favourably influences the microbial community in the gut, and aid the bird to establish or re-establish the state of eubiosis, thus enhancing gut health and productivity.

In general, the following modes of action of probiotics are proposed: 

  1. competition with pathogenic bacteria for space, intestinal adhesion sites and nutrients (competitive exclusion);
  2. enhancement of epithelial barrier integrity;  
  3. production of antimicrobial substances;
  4. change of environmental conditions in the intestine by lowering of pH through increased production of acids;
  5. enhancement of intestinal immune function (Source: Probiotics in Poultry Production 2014, Erber AG, Austria)

The main goal of probiotics is to influence the intestinal microflora in a positive way, either by promoting its development, maturation or stabilization. A well-established intestinal microflora is crucial for the health of our animals, especially if we expect high production performance. It is extremely important to the most for their ability to fight off infections with enteric pathogens and for guaranteeing a well-functioning end effective digestion of nutrients, resulting in good growth performance parameters.

The right probiotic bacterial strains block receptor sites in the intestinal wall, thus preventing pathogenic bacteria from establishing themselves in the gut. This principle is known as ‘competitive exclusion.’  

These beneficial microbes produce lactic acid (and other metabolites, i.e. short chain fatty acids), that reduce the pH in the animal’s gut and make it less favorable for opportunistic/pathogenic bacteria to grow or proliferate.

Probiotic supplementation of the intestinal microflora will also enhance the gut barrier, primarily by preventing colonization by pathogens and by acting indirectly as adjuvant-like stimulation of innate and acquired immune functions. However, evidence for probiotic-mediated enhancement of immunity requires further research.

PoultryStar® for Better Efficiency and Performance

A study conducted at broiler farm, Hyderabad, India confirmed positive effects of combination of probiotic and prebiotic (PoultryStar®, BIOMIN Holding GmbH, Austria) on live body weight, FCR and mortality. The study showed higher live body weight in the PoultryStar group by 80 gr (Table 2), FCR was lower than the control group with (-0.08) difference (Table 3) and mortality rate was 0.27% than the control (Table 4).

Table 1. Effect of PoultryStar® on performance parameters

No. of Birds48854885 
Slaughter Days4040 
Live Body Weight (grams)1830gr.1910gr.+ 80 gr.
Feed Intake (grams)3354 gr.3340 gr.-14 gr.
FCR1.831.75+ 0.08
Mortality (%)4.48 % 4.21 %-0.27 %
Effect of PoultryStar® on body weight
Table 2. Effect of PoultryStar® on body weight
Effect of PoultryStar® on FCR
Table 3. Effect of PoultryStar® on FCR
Effect of PoultryStar® on mortality
Table 4. Effect of PoultryStar® on mortality


  • The aim of this trial was to investigate the effects of PoultryStar® on growth parameters of broiler chickens under Indian farming conditions and how that can affect the farm performance.The results of the trial showed that PoultryStar® is effective in improving broiler performance. Compared to the negative control, it increased the final live weight and broiler productivity index by 4.4 % and 9.5 %.