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Chicken is a staple in many Australian diets with 90 percent of the population eating it at least once a week. With increased demand, animal nutritionists are looking at sustainable nutritional strategies to improve nutrient utilisation and feed efficacy. Our Animal Nutritionist, Dr. Yumin Bao will be collaborating with the University of Sydney to conduct two research programs contributing to these sustainable nutritional strategies.  

In Australia, the per capita consumption of chicken is expected to reach 50 kg in 2020-21 (Australian Chicken Meat Federation). In order to meet this current demand, the local industry processes more than 600 million birds annually, to produce about 1.2 million tonnes of chicken-meat. However, it is also predicted that by 2050 the Australian population may reach 35 million, increasing the demand on production by 40%, with an additional half million tonnes of chicken-meat or an additional supply of 1 million tonnes of chicken feed. This assumes the per capita consumption remains constant. During this period, if the sustainable nutritional strategy could improve nutrient utilisation and feed efficacy (Feed conversion ratio, FCR) by one point, it would save five thousand tonnes of chicken feed.

Low protein diets balanced with supplemental amino acids

The development of low protein diets balanced with supplemental amino acids for broiler chickens is one of these strategies. The main environmental burden caused by chicken meat production is ammonia emission. A possible way to decrease ammonia emission is to decrease nitrogen excretion by lowing the dietary crude protein content. However, reduced protein diets may result in amino acids being redistributed away from growth and production processes, toward intestinal cells involved in immune and inflammatory responses. Therefore, the ideal amino acid profile, developed in 1994, provides chickens with sufficient but not surplus essential amino acids, such as methionine, lysine, threonine, valine, isoleucine, arginine, tryptophan and leucine. Obviously, if chickens are only provided with natural ingredients such as soybean meal and wheat, it is very difficult to maintain the ideal amino acid profile. Those surplus amino acids cannot be used by chickens and will be excreted via nitrogen. This nitrogen excretion not only contaminates the environment but also depresses FCR. Thus, supplementation of individual L form amino acids naturally produced by bacteria fermentation has been widely practiced in chicken production. However, due to technical issue, L form methionine is just recently available. Synthetic DL form methionine or liquid hydroxyl analogue of methionine HMTBa is usually used in broiler chicken production. Because chickens cannot utilise D form methionine, D form methionine in DL-methionine and D form or L form methionine analogue in HMTBa must be converted to L form methionine by two steps enzyme reactions in chicken body. These enzyme reactions require energy. The current project results will answer if these energy requirements could sacrifice FCR and L form methionine therefore could improve FCR.

Phosphorus requirement and exogenous phytase

Another project is the supplementation of exogenous phytase to improve nutrient utilisation and feed efficiency. Phytase and phytate-bound phosphorus is invariably present in practical poultry diets which limits phosphorus bioavailability and pollutes the environment. Although phytase has been included in broiler diets for more than 20 years, very few studies reported the efficacy of exogenous phytase in whole grain wheat-based diets, which is a commercial practice in Australia. Furthermore, in most recent studies, the exogenous phytase was assigned with various matrix values, possibly resulting in deficiencies in calcium, phosphorus, energy, digestible lysine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan, valine isoleucine and arginine, leading to depress FCR. This project will investigate the heat stable phytase produced from VTR in China on phosphorus requirement, essential amino acid digestibility and the apparent digestibility of energy for broiler chickens fed with the whole grain wheat based diets.

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