SUMMARY.

This study investigated the effects of a proprietary commercial feed additive (FA) comprised of a blend of fatty acids, organic acids, and phytochemicals; a hydroxychloride copper (MA); as well as a water acidification product (WA), alone and in combination, on growth performance in nonvaccinated broiler chickens raised in an antibiotic-free production system. The test treatments were FA; WA; FA and WA combined (FA + WA); and FA, WA, and MA combined (FA + WA + MA). The efficacy of these treatments was compared with a negative control (CON) and a medicated feeding program (bacitracin, antibiotic growth promoter [AGP]). Ross 708 cockerels (n = 2376) were subject to a 3-phase commercial feeding program, namely, starter (0–20 days), grower (21–28 days), and finisher (28–35 days), with no coccidiostats or additional medications added to the feed. On day 14, birds were subjected to an in-feed Clostridium perfringens challenge and a subset of animals were euthanized and the ileal digesta was collected for C. perfringens enumeration. Prior to pathogen challenge (day 14), birds fed the FA + WA and F + WA + MA treatments had significantly higher body weights (+2.6%–3.5%) than those fed CON and similar body weights to birds fed the AGP. These early growth advantages were not sustained postchallenge. Clostridia counts in ileal digesta were dramatically reduced in birds fed the AGP compared with all treatments. The FA (–2.5 log), FA + WA (–2.0 log), and FA + WA + MA (–2.3 log) treatments had significantly lower clostridia counts than the CON treatment. Together, these findings support the use of combined in-feed and in-water strategies for reducing clostridia, while maintaining growth, in antibiotic-free production systems.

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