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Sea buckthorn extracts could improve mortality rate of chicken bred in high altitudes, shows study.

Researchers from Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR), Leh-Ladakh and Defence Institute of Physiology and Applied Sciences (DIPAS), New Delhi, under Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), are studying the benefits of Hippophae rhamnoides, generally known as common sea buckthorn, in improving the health of chicken reared in high altitude cold deserts. The study shows a reduction in mortality rates in chicken that were fed extracts from the fruit of sea buckthorn plant.

Extreme climate conditions, like cold mountainous regions can pose numerous challenges to life. From the reduced oxygen levels to extreme variations in temperatures, life has to evolve to survive such harsh conditions. When life forms from elsewhere are brought into such extreme climate, they often show a drastic increase in mortality rates. Broiler chicken reared in the cold desert of Himalayas, 3500 meters above sea level (MSL), also face such harsh conditions.

“Extremes of climate and hypobaric hypoxia cause poor growth performance in broiler chickens at high altitude” say the authors.  Hypobaric hypoxia (medical condition caused by decreased oxygen in the atmosphere), excessive Ultraviolet radiations, very less availability of water vapours in the atmosphere and shortage of animal food are some of the reasons for the poor performance.

To overcome the difficulties, researchers turned to ‘Amchi’ system of medicine—a traditional system of medicine practiced mainly in Tibet, Magnolia, Bhutan, some parts of China, Nepal, and trans-Himalayan regions of India. The system makes use of the widely abundant plant species to treat ailments. For their study, the researchers used extracts from the fruit of Hippophae rhamnoides or common sea buckthorn—a temperate shrub growing at altitudes of 3000m to 4500m above MSL. Previous studies reported various pharmacological activities of the plant including antioxidant, immunomodulatory, anti-stress, anti-tumor, hepato protective, and radio protective.  For this study, researchers used fresh fruits of the plant, obtained from a local market in Leh, for extraction.

Rhode Island Red cross-bred broiler chickens obtained from the region were used for the study. The chicken were split into groups, with a control group that received no additives in their food, and groups T1 through T6, which received different doses (100, 150, 200, 300, 400 and 800 mg/kg body weight of the chicken) of seabuckthorn extracts along with their regular feed.

The study showed an increase in phytomolecules (molecules of plant origin) in the chickens that were fed the plant extract. Researchers also observed modification in the immune response by the extracts in chicken lymphocytes. Further, 200 mg/kg body weight of chicken was found to be ideal dose of the additive for healthier individuals.

According to the researchers “treatment group birds had shown better physio-biochemical indices as compared to control group birds. Interestingly, lower mortality rate due to ascites and coccidiosis was recorded in treatment groups and therefore, higher net return was observed.