Heat stress is one of the most important environmental stressors challenging poultry production worldwide. The negative effects of heat stress on broilers and laying hens range from reduced growth and egg production to decreased poultry and egg quality and safety. However, a major concern should be the negative impact of heat stress on poultry welfare. As presented in this review, much information has been published on the effects of heat stress on productivity and immune response in poultry (broilers and laying hens). However, our understanding of basic mechanisms associated to the reported effects, as well as related to behavior and welfare of the birds under heat stress conditions are in fact scarce.
Finally, it is important to mention that intervention strategies to deal with heat stress conditions have been the focus of many published studies, which apply different approaches, including environmental management (such as facilities design, ventilation, sprinkling, shading, etc.), nutritional manipulation (i.e., diet formulation according to the metabolic condition of the birds), as well as inclusion of feed additives in the diet (e.g., antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, prebiotics, essential oils, etc.) and water supplementation with electrolytes. Nevertheless, effectiveness of most of the interventions has been variable or inconsistent. More recently, two innovative approaches have been explored, including early-life conditioning (i.e., perinatal heat acclimation) and genetic selection of breeds with increased capacity of coping with heat stress conditions (i.e., increased heat tolerance). However, these potential opportunities, although promising (particularly, for poultry production in hot climatic regions), still require further research and development.
Conflict of Interest
Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
This article was originally published in Animals 2013, 3, 356-369; doi:10.3390/ani3020356. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
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