U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

Linkage between the intestinal microbiota and residual feed intake in broiler chickens

Jing Liu, Sydney N. Stewart, Kelsy Robinson, Qing Yang, Wentao Lyu, Melanie A. Whitmore, Guolong Zhang
Journal of animal science and biotechnology 2021 v.12 no.1 pp. 22
Clostridiaceae, Lachnospiraceae, Peptostreptococcaceae, anaerobes, broiler chickens, broiler feeding, cecum, chicks, cloaca, feed conversion, feed intake, genetic relationships, ileum, intestinal microorganisms, males, mesophilic microorganisms, ribosomal DNA, ribosomal RNA, short chain fatty acids, species richness
BACKGROUND: Intestinal microbiota plays a key role in nutrient digestion and utilization with a profound impact on feed efficiency of livestock animals. However, the intestinal microbes that are critically involved in feed efficiency remain elusive. METHODS: To identify intestinal bacteria associated with residual feed intake (RFI) in chickens, male Cobb broiler chicks were individually housed from day 14 to day 35. Individual RFI values were calculated for 56 chickens. Luminal contents were collected from the ileum, cecum, and cloaca of each animal on day 35. Bacterial DNA was isolated and subjected to 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Intestinal microbiota was classified to the feature level using Deblur and QIIME 2. High and low RFI groups were formed by selecting 15 and 17 chickens with the most extreme RFI values for subsequent LEfSe comparison of the difference in the microbiota. Spearman correlation analysis was further performed to identify correlations between the intestinal microbiota composition and RFI. RESULTS: No significant difference in evenness, richness, and overall diversity of the microbiota in the ileum, cecum, or cloaca was observed between high and low RFI chickens. However, LEfSe analysis revealed a number of bacterial features being differentially enriched in either high or low RFI chickens. Spearman correlation analysis further identified many differentially enriched bacterial features to be significantly correlated with RFI (P < 0.05). Importantly, not all short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) producers showed a positive association with RFI. While two novel members of Oscillibacter and Butyricicoccus were more abundant in low-RFI, high-efficiency chickens, several other SCFA producers such as Subdoligranulum variabile and two related Peptostreptococcaceae members were negatively associated with feed efficiency. Moreover, a few closely-related Lachnospiraceae family members showed a positive correlation with feed efficiency, while others of the same family displayed an opposite relationship. CONCLUSIONS: Our results highlight the complexity of the intestinal microbiota and a need to differentiate the bacteria to the species, subspecies, and even strain levels in order to reveal their true association with feed efficiency. Identification of RFI-associated bacteria provides important leads to manipulate the intestinal microbiota for improving production efficiency, profitability, and sustainability of poultry production.