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The influence of dietary fibre source and level on the development of the gastrointestinal tract, digestibility and energy metabolism in broiler chickens

  • Henry JøRgensen (a1), Xin-Quan Zhao (a1), Knud Erik Bach Knudsen (a1) and Bjørn O. Eggum (a1)

The present study was undertaken to provide detailed information about the effect of fibre source (pea fibre, wheat bran or oat bran) at inclusion levels of 0, 187 and 375 g/kg diet on the development of the digestive tract, nutrient digestibility and energy and protein metabolism in broiler chickens. Heat production was measured using open-air-circuit respiration chambers. Diets with increasing levels of pea fibre decreased the DM in droppings and increased excreta output (2·5-fold) relative to DM intake. Adaptation to increased dietary fibre levels included increases in the size of the digestive system, with pea fibre exerting a stronger impact than wheat bran or oat bran. The length of the intestine, and particularly the length and weight of the caecum, increased with the fibre level. The digestibility of all nutrients also decreased with increasing fibre level. The decrease in the digestibility in relation to NSP for the three fibre sources was bigger for oat bran (0·0020 per g dietary NSP) than for pea fibre and wheat bran (0·0014 and 0·0016 per g dietary NSP) indicating that the cell walls in oat bran (aleurone and subaleurone) had a significant negative effect on the digestibility of cellular nutrients, i.e. protein and fat. The degradation of the NSP constituents was far lower in chickens than found in other animal species such as pigs and rats, thus supporting the view that chickens do not ferment fibre polymers to a great extent. Excretion of organic acids (mainly lactic acid and acetic acid) accounted for up to 2% of metabolizable energy (ME) intake with the highest excretion for the high-fibre diets. H2 excretion was related to the amount of NSP degraded and indicated higher microbial fermentation with increasing fibre levels. The chickens' feed intake responded to a great extent to dietary ME concentration but expressed in terms of metabolic body size (W0·75) ME intake was depressed at the high fibre levels. Dietary NSP was able to explain between 86% (oat bran) and 96% (pea fibre) of the variation in ME concentration. The amount of energy available from fermentation of NSP appears to reach a maximum of 42 KJ/d independent of fibre source and level. Expressed in relation to ME intake the NSP fermentation contributed 3-4%. With increasing fibre intake the partitioning of retained energy between body protein and body fat changed in favour of protein.

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British Journal of Nutrition
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