Iron (Fe) is traditionally supplemented in poultry and swine diets using inorganic forms (e.g. sulfates, oxides). However, research suggests that organic sources are more beneficial due to greater bioavailability. In this paper, we present results from four studies aimed at assessing ferric citrate (CI-FER™, Akeso Biomedical Inc., Burlington, MA, USA) as a safe and effective source of Fe for broilers and piglets.
A total of four studies were performed in Germany following standard farming practices for each species. One study in day-old broiler chicks and one study in weaned piglets were designed as target animal safety studies where animals were randomly allocated to one of three treatment groups: a negative control group, the proposed dose group and a multifold dose group. Broilers and pigs were fed the experimental diets for 35 and 42 days, respectively. In each study, average daily feed intake, average daily weight gain and feed conversion ratio were measured, and blood samples were taken at study end for routine biochemistry and haematology. The other two studies were designed to evaluate different sources of dietary Fe for weaned piglets bred and managed under standard farm conditions. All piglets received routine Fe injections (200 mg Fe dextran, intramuscular) on day 3 of age, as well as the experimental diets for 42 days. In both studies, performance parameters were measured. In one study, Fe digestibility and serum Fe, superoxide dismutase and haptoglobin were also measured. In all studies, the general health status of the animals was monitored daily and all culls and mortality recorded. Each study followed a complete randomised block design.
In broilers, ferric citrate was well tolerated up to 2,000 mg/kg feed (×10 the recommended inclusion rate) and no adverse effects on growth, blood parameters or mortality were observed. In piglets, ferric citrate was well tolerated up to 5,000 mg/kg feed (×10 the recommended inclusion rate) with no adverse effects on growth, blood parameters or mortality. In addition, piglets fed ferric citrate performed significantly better than animals fed the negative control diet (containing only endogenous Fe) and those fed inorganic forms of Fe. Moreover, piglets fed ferric citrate demonstrated improved Fe digestibility and improved oxidative status. Altogether, these findings show that ferric citrate is a safe and easily digestible source of dietary Fe for broilers and piglets.