The use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGP) is common practice to improve broiler production and performance. The use of AGP is under discussion as it can induce bacterial resistance. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of removing AGP from broiler feed and study the effect of feed additives. For those countries where in-feed AGP are still permitted, the effect of the products in the presence of AGP was evaluated. Half the number of male broilers received a diet free of AGP, whereas the other half received a diet supplemented with zinc bacitracin at 0.5 g/kg. Both diets were either without additional additives or combined with a coated sodium butyrate, α-monolaurin or a combination of these additives. Raised under optimal conditions, the incorporation of AGP had no effect on broiler performance, but negatively affected villi height and villi height to crypt depth (VH:CD) ratio in the duodenum. In the absence of AGP, butyric acid and α-monolaurin had a positive effect on villi height. In the presence of AGP, α-monolaurin resulted in the lowest feed conversion ratio and improved VH:CD ratio in the duodenum, jejunum and ileum. Both feed additives had minimal effect on performance parameters but showed small positive effects on gut health in the absence of AGP and could play a role in the strategy to replace AGP.
Keywords: broilers; intestinal health; sodium butyrate; zinc bacitracin; α-monolaurin.