Maximising Gut Health is of Vital Importance to Ensure Optimal Performance, Productivity and Secure Duck Producer Profitability.

There are billions of bacteria within the gut. The vast majority of these are beneficial and help in digestion, nutrient release and in defence against harmful compounds or pathogens. Many of these ‘good’ gut bacteria can also help improve duck health, however there are instances when the gut microbiota can be disrupted and ‘harmful’ bacteria proliferate when birds are under challenge. This imbalance of microbiota can have negative implications on duck health, performance and producer profitability.

Salmonella in Ducks

The most common duck diseases can usually be dealt with through good biosecurity management practices. Despite this, Salmonella enterica Serovar enteritidis (S. enteritidis) can be a major issue in duck production systems, leading to reduced egg production and increased risk of salmonella transmission into eggs and meat.

Due to the common use of straw as bedding material, alongside the need for water areas in duck production, providing higher moisture in the environment, the risk of salmonella proliferation in duck housing is enhanced.

The transmission of S. enteritidis in the reproductive tract and hence in the egg occurs via the faeces and cloaca of infected birds. S. enteritidis is identified as one of the leading causes of salmonella infection in humans, resulting in gastroenteritis and also more serious illnesses.

This disease poses serious health concerns for animals and humans alike. Therefore, the overall importance of duck gut health should not be underestimated.

Benefits of Oregano Essential Oil

Oregano essential oil is well-documented for its antimicrobial action in vitro and its complex and synergistic mode of action when included in the diets of various poultry species. The presence of many volatile compounds within the oil, in particular carvacrol and thymol, means oregano essential oil offers many benefits to a wide range of poultry species.

It has been found to have a role in appetite enhancement and antioxidant function, as well as in both immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory processes. The inclusion of oregano oil in the diets of ducks raised for meat production has been seen to lead to increased body weights, reduced mortality, and elevated levels of antioxidants in breast and thigh meat.

Oregano oil has also been shown to have a beneficial effect on the gut microbiota of poultry species, as a result of its strong antimicrobial activity, reducing the presence of Gram-negative bacteria, such as salmonella.

Acid Based Eubiotics Optimise Gut Health

In addition to this, the use of acid based eubiotics (ABE) can offer extensive benefits to duck health and performance. Eubiotics are defined as products which help to regulate the microbial population of the gut, helping to restore a balanced and healthy microbiota. This offers many benefits, through a reduction in pathogen load, such as salmonella, and enabling the proliferation of beneficial bacteria.

Ensuring optimal gut health can improve feed utilisation, and with laying ducks consuming an average of 50% more feed per day than commercial laying hens, this is absolutely crucial in maximising profitability.

Anpario plc have a range of ABE available and these are based on a proprietary blend of pure liquid organic acids, primarily formic and propionic acid, formulated on their unique carrier system. In addition to optimising gut health, the use of formic acid-based ABEs can also be used to improve duck feed and bedding hygiene.

Formic acid is the only organic acid to have been classified as a bacterial decontaminating agent by the EU, reducing populations of harmful pathogenic bacteria, including, but not limited to, Salmonella species.

In a contaminated feed sample, nearly a 100% reduction in Salmonella enteritidis was achieved when an ABE (pHorce, Anpario plc) was added to the feed at the lowest inclusion rate (Fig. 1).

Aspergillosis in Ducks

Ducks are also sensitive to aspergillosis, caused by the presence of moulds in bedding material. Aspergillosis in ducks has been associated with increased incidence of respiratory issues, leading to elevated mortality and reduced performance. Therefore, reducing the presence of moulds in feed and bedding, through the use of acid based eubiotics and mould inhibitors can help to eliminate the impact of aspergillosis in ducks.

Maximising Duck Health and Performance to Enhance Profitability

Costs associated with duck meat and egg production are higher than that of most other poultry species. This is as a result of the exceptionally high feed costs, due to a comparably high feed intake, as well as the need for all feed to be high quality pellets with a high protein and oil content. In addition to this, the requirement for straw as bedding material for ducks further increases production costs, especially in recent years with constrained supply.

“It is essential to decrease the risk of salmonella to optimise duck performance and health as well as enhancing producer profitability,” says Anpario’s Technical Sales Manager, Dr Sylwia Sobolewska.

“There are many ways in which this can be achieved, however eubiotics, such as oregano essential oils and acid based eubiotics provide a natural and sustainable strategy which allows ducks to reach their genetic potential and improves bird welfare.”