During the last years, the use of algae has been increased in different industries such as food, agricultural fertilizers, animal feed/additives, pharmaceuticals etc. There are around 25,000 to 50,000 algae species with different sizes, forms, pigments, and functional compounds.
“The global annual market represents 36 million metric tons, with a market size of approximately $6 billion USD for various commercial applications”.
One of the main features of using seaweeds is because they produce unique bioactive metabolites (carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, polyphenols, pigments, mycosporine-like amino acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids) that terrestrial plants cannot synthesize. The positive effects of these metabolites are associated with anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and prebiotic functions.
Therefore, the use of seaweeds in animal nutrition is increasing since algae contain diverse nutrients that can help improve diets and trigger health benefits for livestock.
“The global market for animal feed additives and nutritional supplements was valued at 54 billion USD in 2018 and is estimated to generate a net revenue of 64 billion USD by 2025”.
Talking about poultry, green seaweeds (e.g., Sea Lettuce – Ulva spp.) is one of the most used due to the protein content of around 15%, total fiber between 290-670 g/kg, and high content of soluble and insoluble fibers. To use seaweeds as meals in poultry, the process has to be quick to avoid any contamination. Later, the algae have to be dried (50-70 °C) and ground to have a particle size between 300 to 900 mm.
A recent study indicated that this type of algae enhanced the yield of breast muscle and body weight gain when the corn was replaced for 3% of Ulva spp. in male broilers between 12 to 33 days of age. On the other hand, an inclusion of Ulva Rigida as a probiotic either added in 4 or 6%, enhanced the feed intake, feed conversion ratio, and decreased the mortality.
Additionally, micro-elements such as Cu, Zn, Co, Mn, and Cr are found in higher amounts in other green seaweeds such as Ulva prolifera and Cladophora sp. When they have been formulated in diets, the bodyweight of laying hens has been improved with a good deposition of essentials minerals in the eggs and a better yolk color.
Seaweeds seem to be a feed ingredient with great properties and high potential to be included in poultry diets.
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