Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

The modulating effect of food composition on the immune system in growing ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus)

The decline in the population of ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) in northwestern Germany since 2007 raises questions about the underlying causes. We therefore studied the growth and immune status of ring-necked pheasant chicks dependent on different feed composition. Here, 490 ring-necked pheasant chicks were raised in five groups up to nine weeks. While control groups C1 and C2 received sufficient crude protein (28%) and energy (12.5 MJ/Kg feed) according to current standards, group C2 was treated with cyclosporine eight hours prior to phythemagglutination (PHA) testing, serving as a positive immune suppressed control. Group V1 was fed with reduced protein (20%) but optimal energy content (12.5 MJ/Kg feed), group V2 was fed with sufficient protein (28%) and reduced energy content (10 MJ/kg feed) whereas group V3 was fed reduced crude protein (20%) and reduced energy content (10MJ/kg feed). On all chicks, health status was checked each week, and 20 birds of each group were weighed randomly per week. PHA-testing was performed on 12 birds of each group to study the in vivo non-specific activation of lymphocytes at week 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9. In addition, hemolysis-hemagglutination-assay (HHA) was performed on each of the PHA-tested chicks, which were subsequently euthanized and dissected. Histopathologic examinations of 5 birds that were randomly chosen were performed. The PHA-test results demonstrate significant differences between control (C1, C2) and experimental groups (V1-V3) in several developmental stages. According to the HHA results, weekly testing detected a significant increase of titres per week in all groups without significant differences. Here, only hemagglutination and no lysis of samples was observed. It seems appropriate to conclude that during their first weeks of life, protein content is of higher importance in ring-necked pheasant chicks than energy intake. In particular T-cell response is significantly reduced, which indicate a weaker immune system resulting in a higher risk for clinical diseases. Therefore, we assume that protein i.e. insect availability is a highly important co-factor in the free-ranging population dynamics, and is linked to declines of the northwestern German population.

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