The aim of this study was to assess the age-related effects of dietary electrolyte balance (DEB) on the performance, immune response (from day 0 to 42) and macromineral content of femur ash of broilers. The DEB values of the purchased commercial broiler diets were modified with the addition of NH 4Cl or NaHCO 3 to formulate the diets (DEB 325, 250, 175, 100, 25 and -50 mmol/kg) for this investigation. A total of 396 chickens were divided into 6 treatment groups and fed with the experimental diets for 6 weeks. During the first two weeks of life, DEB did not influence feed intake and body weight gain; however, by the 21st day of age DEB 175 and between 22 and 42 days of age DEB 250 mmol/kg gave significantly better results than the control. DEB did not affect the macromineral concentrations of bone ash. The immune response of broilers on low DEB (< 175 mmol/kg) was faster and more intensive than that of chickens on diets with medium or high DEB (> 175 mmol/kg). It can be concluded that the optimal DEB value required for the best body weight gain is significantly influenced by the age of broilers. Our results call attention to the discrepancy between the decreasing DEB level of commercial broiler diets and the age-related increase of 'electrolyte requirements' of broilers. It is also interesting that DEB may influence not only the performance but also the immune response of broilers.
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