Zootechnical Research Small Livestock

Animal trials consistent with ethics code


ILVO’s small livestock (poultry & rabbits) researchers have built up years of knowledge of feed evaluation, nutrient requirements, excretions into the environment, and the determination of egg and meat quality (including composition and residues). These themes continue to be important research topics. Also research on the determination of the efficiency of various feed additives, such as enzymes, coccidiostats and alternatives for antimicrobial growth promoters, is ongoing. Another focus is functional nutrition with regard to the inclusion of specific fatty acids in eggs and meat and their benefit for a good health of breeders and progeny. Experimental housing facilities are available for 1,200 medium-weight laying hens, 7,000 broilers, turkeys and rabbits. Research is also occasionally done on ducks and guinea fowl.


  • Feeding experiments with laying hens, mainly during the laying period
    The accommodation and know-how are available for the evaluation of nutritional parameters on production results (laying rate, feed conversion ratio, etc.), egg quality and bone mineralisation. Test diets are formulated and made at the own feed mill.
  • Feeding experiments with broilers aged between 1 and 39 days
    Various experimental pens offer ample opportunities to accurately determine the production results (feed conversion ratio, etc.) of broilers under experimental conditions. Number of animals and number of repetitions are determined in consultation with the client. Feed formulation is customised and the feed is produced at ILVO’s own feed mill. Litter quality, dermatitis scores and sampling for intestinal health parameters are possible as well.
  • Feeding experiments with meat turkeys aged between 1 and 112 days
    An experimental house with 24 pens is especially equipped for trials with growing turkeys. The parameters specified for broilers also apply here.
  • Feeding experiments with breeding does and meat rabbits (from birth till slaughter)
    Various divisions are equipped to make observations, individually (breeding does) or in small groups (meat rabbits). Feed formulation and production are carried out under ILVO management.
  • Digestibility trials with laying hens, broilers, young meat turkeys and meat rabbits
    Adapted accommodation is available. The trials can be performed at various ages. Animals are placed in the specific cages for one week to allow them to adapt to the feed and their environment. The balance trial lasts 4 days during which manure and/or ileal samples are collected and subsequently supplied to the ANIMALAB.
  • Formulation of feeds for poultry and rabbits
    Know-how and computer programmes are available for accurate formulation of experimental diets.
  • Determination of the carcass yield (post mortem).


Luc Maertens, Evelyne Delezie, Saskia Leleu