Feed supplementation with biochar may reduce poultry pathogens, including Campylobacter hepaticus, the causative agent of Spotty Liver Disease

Nicky Lee Willson, Thi T.H. Van, Surya P. Bhattarai, Jodi M. Courtice, Joshua R. McIntyre, Tanka P. Prasai, Robert J. Moore, Kerry Walsh, Dragana Stanley

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Increased global regulation and restrictions on the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in the poultry industry means that there is a need to identify alternatives that prevent infection while still conveying the growth and performance benefits afforded by their use. Biochars are produced by the incomplete pyrolysis of organic materials, with reports of use as a feed supplement and activity against pathogenic bacteria. In the current study the dose-dependent effects of biochar dietary inclusion in layer diets at 1%, 2% and 4% w/w were investigated to determine a) the efficacy of biochar as an anti-pathogenic additive on the intestinal microbiota and b) the optimal inclusion level. Biochar inclusion for anti-pathogenic effects was found to be most beneficial at 2% w/w. Poultry pathogens such as Gallibacterium anatis and campylobacters, including Campylobacter hepaticus, were found to be significantly lower in biochar fed birds. A shift in microbiota was also associated with the incorporation of 2% w/w biochar in the feed in two large scale trials on two commercial layer farms. Biochar inclusion for anti-pathogenic effects was found to be most beneficial at 2% w/w. Differential effects of the timing of biochar administration (supplementation beginning at hatch or at point of lay) were also evident, with greater impact on community microbial structure at 48 weeks of age when birds were fed from hatch rather than supplemented at point of lay.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0214471
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • birds
  • diet
  • microbiome
  • poultry
  • farms
  • bacterial pathogens
  • capylobacter
  • antibiotics

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