A proteolytic enzyme treatment to improve Ulva laetevirens and Solieria chordalis seaweed co-product digestibility, performance, and health in broilers

Stokvis, L.; Rayner, C.; Krimpen, M.M. van; Kals, J.; Hendriks, W.H.; Kwakkel, R.P.


To explore the potential use of seaweed co-products for broiler diets, this study investigates whether an enzyme treatment of seaweed co-products improves performance, in vivo digestibility and health in broilers. In total, 360 Ross 308 male broilers were fed one of 5 experimental diets: a basal diet, or a basal diet including the U. laetevirens or S. chordalis co-product, with or without proteolytic enzyme treatment of the seaweed, using 6 replicate pens of 12 birds each. The starter (d 0–13) and grower (d 14–21) diet contained 5 and 10% (w/w) seaweed product, respectively. A general linear model with contrast statements was used after model assumptions and goodness of fit were evaluated through normal distribution of residuals. Inclusion of seaweed in the broiler diets increased body weight gain (+14%; P = 0.002), and feed intake (+12%; P = 0.001) in the third week of the experiment. Birds fed the U. laetevirens compared to the S. chordalis diets had a higher body weight gain (+11%; P = 0.007), and a lower feed conversion ratio (FCR; -7%; P < 0.001). Seaweed inclusion reduced apparent pre-cecal digestibility of all nutrients (P < 0.05). Birds fed U. laetevirens vs. S. chordalis diets had a 10% reduced villus length (P < 0.001). Enzymatic treatment reduced the digestibility of most nutrients, and increased crypt depth in birds fed the U. laetevirens diets, whereas the opposite was observed for the birds fed the S. chordalis diets (Seaweed × Enzyme P = 0.035). Untreated vs. treated seaweed in the diets led to lower (−60%) plasma Interleukin-13 levels (P = 0.035). In conclusion, the proteolytic enzyme treatment of the seaweed co-products did not improve performance nor health-related parameters, and reduced digestibility of the diets. Dietary inclusion of U. laetevirens co-products did improve performance based on growth and FCR, whereas inclusion of S. chordalis did not. Inclusion of U. laetevirens in broiler diets slightly reduced duodenal villus length and crypt depth. The inflammation response was strongly reduced, specifically in birds fed the untreated U. laetevirens diet, making the U. laetevirens co-product of interest for future research.