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Improve Broiler Production by Boosting Immune Response using Zinc, Chromium, and Selenium

5 minute read

There are many factors at play when it comes to improving immunity, managing stress and maximizing the success of your poultry operation. If those factors don’t all come together in the right ways, it can hinder your profitability. 

For one, you must produce broilers that can mount a rapid and robust immune response to harmful pathogens and bacteria. This immunity will keep them healthy and allow their energy to be centered on maintenance, growth and performance.  

Then, your broilers must be able to handle heat stress. Heat stress can trigger an immune response, and it typically reduces feed intake and harms their feed conversion rate. So, not only are they consuming less metabolizable energy than required, but their immune system is diverting it away from growth and performance.  

Finally, reducing oxidative stress in your broilers is critical for improving meat quality and reducing food safety risks. This helps get more sellable meat to the supermarket and keeps consumers happy with your brand.  

If even one of these metrics is off, it can have a major impact on your bottom line.  

For robust birds that make your business successful, start by providing three trace minerals: zinc, chromium and selenium. Zinc sets the stage with immune health, chromium gives them the ability to mitigate stress and selenium improves meat yield and quality by reducing oxidative stress.  

Let’s explore the unique role each mineral plays in the process.  

Success Starts with Using Zinc for Immune Health

In broiler production and profitability, it is critical that a bird has a strong immune response. Zinc for immune health is king when it comes to trace mineral nutrition and is responsible for more than 300 enzyme functions. 

Zinc is a crucial nutrient for strengthening the bird’s First Line of Defense™: the epithelial barrier. By strengthening the epithelial barrier, you can reduce the permeability of intestinal tissue and help prevent harmful pathogens and bacteria from penetrating it. Zinc also helps improve the weight of immune system organs like the cloacal bursa, spleen and thymus.  

A 2019 research study by Burin et al. 1 showed that as we increased the inclusion of zinc from Availa® Zn, the relative weight of the cloacal bursa increased accordingly.  

 In addition to improving the immune system on the inside, zinc is also crucial for improving external skin integrity. The skin requires zinc to produce new cells and to recover from wounds and scratches suffered during growth. Improving skin integrity results in more birds arriving at the processing facility with fewer scratches and fewer footpad lesions.  

Enhance Broiler Production by Mitigating Heat Stress with Chromium 

When a bird experiences heat stress, either due to high temperatures or high stocking densities, a hormone called corticosterone is secreted from the adrenal glands. Elevated levels of corticosterone reduce dopamine levels, which increases the respiratory and heart rates and, as a consequence, body temperature. This increases the bird’s energy expenditure and reduces feed intake.  

Chromium helps birds mitigate the impact of heat stress by lowering corticosterone levels and body temperature. In 2019, a study by Dalólio et al. 2 showed that as we increase the inclusion of chromium from Availa(r) Cr, corticosterone levels and internal temperatures are reduced even if heat stress occurs.  

Making these reductions will restore the birds’ appetite, help keep them calm and utilize energy for what matters: growth and performance. 

In addition to reducing corticosterone levels and body temperature, chromium and zinc are intrinsically involved in the metabolic process. By using these two minerals together, you can improve the bird’s ability to convert glucose into energy for growth and production. This improves feed conversion and average daily gain.  

In a field trial we did with one of our customers, we saw a 1.7% average feed conversion improvement and an 11% reduction in total carcass condemnations on average when we added Availa Cr on top of Availa Zn.  

Selenium Reduces Oxidative Stress to Improve Poultry Meat Quality and Yield 

Selenium’s role as an antioxidant is critical for improving breast meat yield and quality. During times of stress, which could be related to a reduction of feed intake, heat, stocking density, etc., birds will produce free radicals, triggering oxidative stress. 

Oxidative stress can cause damage to the protein cell membranes, affecting protein quality and functionality and allowing water to escape from the meat during processing, storage and cooking. Appropriately utilizing selenium will help you increase meat quality and yield. 

In 2018, a study by Cemin et al.3 found that the levels of selenium being used in most broiler diets are well below what the birds require. When we combined Availa® Se in increasing amounts with Availa Zn, we saw the following improvements: 

  • Feed conversion ratio by up to 6%. 
  • Body weight gain by up to 7%. 
  • Carcass yield by up to 3%. 
  • Breast meat yield by up to 4%.

Zinc, Chromium and Selenium for Maximum Profitability in Broiler Production 

Producing robust birds that maximize the success and profitability of your poultry operation is as easy as 1-2-3 with zinc, chromium and selenium. Our experts can provide comprehensive solutions and feeding recommendations that help you overcome the challenges your poultry operation faces every day. Contact your Zinpro representative to learn more.  

*All products not available in every region 


1 Burin Junior, A., Moretti, D.B., Beatriz Oliveira, A., Suckeveris, A., Nascimento Filho, M., Fireman, A., Fernando Machado Menten, J. (2019). Zinc amino acid complex supplementation mitigates negative effects of cyclic heat stress on immune competence and oxidative stress metabolism of broilers. Poult. Sci. 98 (E-Suppl. 1), 115. 

2 Dalólio, F., Albino, L., Silva, J., Campos, P., Lima, H., Moreira, J., Ribeiro Junior, V. (2018). Dietary chromium supplementation for heat-stressed broilers. World’s Poultry Science Journal, 74(1), 101–116. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0043933917001064  

3 Cemin, H., Vieira, S., Stefanello, C., Kindlein, L., Ferreira, T.,  Fireman, A. (2018). Broiler responses to increasing selenium supplementation using Zn-L-selenomethionine with special attention to breast myopathies. Poult. Sci., 97(5), 1832–1840. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/pey001