Effects of Different Levels of Dietary Crude Protein and Threonine on Performance, Humoral Immune Responses and Intestinal Morphology of Broiler Chicks
The present study aimed at investigating the effects of different dietary crude protein (CP) and threonine (Thr) levels on the performance, immune responses and jejunal morphology of broiler chicks. A total of 432 broiler chicks were randomly assigned to a 3×3 factorial arrangement of treatments including three different CP dietary levels (90, 95, and 100% of Ross 308 recommendations) and Thr (100, 110, and 120% of Ross specifications) dietary levels. Performance parameters were recorded for the starter (1-12 days), grower (13-24 days) and finisher (25-42 days) periods. Birds were subjected to different antigen inoculations to evaluate antibody responses. At day 42 of age, two randomly-selected birds per replicate were slaughtered to measure carcass traits. Although Thr dietary supplementation had no marked effect on Newcastle antibody titers, particularly the supplementation of Thr up to 110% of Ross specifications improved (p<0.05) antibody titers against sheep red blood cells during both primary and secondary responses. Reduction of dietary CP level resulted in significant decrease in villus height (p<0.05) and crypt depth (p<0.01) in jejunal epithelial cells, but the supplementation of low-CP diets with Thr up to 110 and 120% of the recommended values allowed overcoming these changes. Except for the starter period, reducing dietary CP level to 90% of Ross recommendations had no harmful effects on performance parameters; however, the best values were obtained with diets containing 110% Thr. The present results indicate that it is possible to reduce dietary CP level up to 10% after the starter period without any detrimental impact on growth performance, and dietary Thr supplementation up to 110% of Ross values may compensate for low CP-induced growth delay in broiler chicks.