University research digs deep into poultry diets

Nottingham Trent University is seeking a PhD studentship to carry out research into poultry nutrition over 3.5 years. The post will be jointly funded by Alltech and Nottingham Trent University.

Phosphorus is a key nutrient for poultry: undersupply leads to impaired skeletal development but oversupply contributes to environmental pollution. A second layer of complexity comes from variation in form of phosphorus. Plant materials contain phosphorus but in a form that birds cannot use: phytate phosphorus. Therefore, the bird must be offered either a mineral form of phosphorus that it can easily use, or aided in breaking down the phytate into usable phosphorus.

Two forces are driving the poultry sector to decrease dietary inclusion of mineral phosphates in favour of phytases. Firstly, finite global supply of phosphates and supply chain insecurity have increased their cost, and secondly, a desire to minimise the environmental footprint of poultry production. However, it is acknowledged that in practice a margin of safety used around the usable P value ascribed to phytase in a formulation matrix due to the health consequences of undersupplying usable  P.

Increasing understanding of how extrinsic factors impact on phytase efficacy and also how phytase itself influences other key nutrients will increase the precision of our nutrient supply to poultry.

The PhD project will begin by assessing the interaction between minerals and phytase in poultry by assessment of the gap between P supply and requirement and looking at the impact of mineral source on phytase activity/P availability. Subsequent trials will assess vitamin and mineral interactions by quantifying the impact of premix/feed storage on phytase activity/P availability and potentially assessing the impact of mineral source on Vitamin E availability.

The successful candidate will be required to undertake a PhD research programme that meets needs of Alltech while making a significant, novel contribution to the research field. 

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