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Jake Keel

The protein sources used in broiler chicken diets can vary based on ingredient cost and availability. It is also very common for several flocks of broiler chickens to be reared on the same litter before it is completely cleaned out and replaced. There is some speculation that these factors can influence the microbiome and the environment within a broiler chicken’s GI tract, but there have been few studies on the issue. Jake Keel, a senior majoring in Animal Sciences, is focusing his undergraduate research on exploring the physiological changes that result from these factors.  A better understanding of these changes can help optimize the efficiency of production.

Keel and his team first characterized the effects protein source and litter condition has on cell proliferation and immune presence in the intestine. In broiler production, muscle growth is extremely important, and a rapidly growing intestine or one with a high immune response represents an energy loss that is not being used for muscle growth. This can result in an increase in production cost. Keel’s team conducted a 3×2 factorial experiment in which the broiler chickens were fed diets consisting of one of three commonly used dietary protein sources and then reared them on either fresh or used litter. They then analyzed the samples using cryohistology, immunofluorescence staining, and digital fluorescence microscopy methods. Although his study is not complete, Keel has observed that litter conditions can affect the number of proliferative cells present in the intestine, especially in young broiler chickens.

Keel says that being a part of a research team that can positively impact the poultry industry is very rewarding. Through his undergraduate research experience, Keel has learned the importance of planning and dedication in conducting an experiment and has piqued his interest in a research-based career in the future.

Jake Keel is a 2018-2019 Undergraduate Research Fellow for the College of Agriculture. He is currently being mentored by Dr. Jessica Starkey.

Last modified: March 27, 2019