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Effects of Dietary Betaine on Growth Performance, Digestive Function, Carcass Traits, and Meat Quality in Indigenous Yellow-Feathered Broilers under Long-Term Heat Stress.


Heat stress has a profound effect on poultry health and productivity. The present study evaluated whether feeding betaine could ameliorate long-term heat stress-induced impairment of productive performance in indigenous yellow-feathered broilers. A total of 240 five-week-old male broilers were randomly allocated to five treatments with six replicates of eight broilers each. The five treatments included a thermoneutral zone control group (TN, fed basal diet), a heat stress control group (HS, fed basal diet), and an HS control group supplemented 500, 1000, 2000 mg/kg betaine, respectively. The TN group was raised at 26 ± 1 °C during the whole study, HS groups exposed to 32 ± 1 °C for 8 h/day from 9:00 am to 17:00 pm. The results showed that heat stress decreased the body weight gain (BWG) and feed intake of broilers during 1-5, 6-10, and 1-10 weeks ( < 0.05). Dietary betaine tended to improve the BWG and feed intake of broilers under 5 weeks of heat stress (linear, < 0.10), and betaine supplementation linearly increased the BWG and feed intake during 6-10 and 1-10 weeks ( < 0.05). Additionally, nitrogen retention was reduced by 5 weeks and 10 weeks of heat stress (p < 0.05), whereas dietary betaine could improve nitrogen retention in heat stressed broilers after both 5 and 10 weeks of heat stress (linear, p < 0.05). Moreover, this study observed that the trypsin activity of jejunum was decreased by 5 weeks of heat stress (p < 0.05), whereas betaine supplementation had quadratic effects on trypsin activity of jejunum in heat stressed broilers (p < 0.05). Furthermore, 10 weeks of heat stress induced a reduction of villus height of the duodenum and jejunum (p < 0.05), and decreased the villus height to crypt depth ratio of the jejunum (p < 0.05). Supplementation with betaine ameliorated the adverse effects of heat stress on these parameters ( < 0.05). Compared with the TN group, 10 weeks of heat stress reduced carcass and breast yield ( < 0.05) and betaine supplementation improved carcass and breast yield of heat stressed broilers (linear, < 0.05). In conclusion, dietary supplementation of betaine could reduce the detrimental effects of long-term heat stress on growth performance, digestive function, and carcass traits in indigenous yellow-feathered broilers.