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    British Science Week: Antonija Simic discusses her PhD research into poultry nutrition.

    11 March 2022

    After graduating from the University of Zagreb with an Organic Agriculture bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Animal Nutrition, Antonija Simic is now investigating the value of fibre in modern poultry nutrition at Harper Adams University.

    “The objective of my PhD research is to determine whether feed enzymes and prebiotic supplements could alleviate the negative effects of added fibre in the diet, increase production performance and alter microbial activity in the caeca.’’

    Research such as Antonija’s is important to the industry as it could help lower the cost of meat production in the future.

    “In the last 20 years, chicken meat production has doubled, and it is continuing to increase. It is important to keep advancing the nutrition as the feed accounts for 60% to 70% of the total cost in poultry production.’’

    “For fast-growing broilers, optimising feed formulation is of high significance to reach their full genetical potential.’’

    ‘’In monogastric animals, fibre was initially associated with impaired nutrient utilisation and decreased animal performance. Recent research, however, has revealed that the fibre has more value than previously observed. Animals are benefiting from fibre nutritionally in a way that it directly provides energy, and indirectly by stimulating the GIT and immune system.’’

    “I hope my research will help the industry more accurately understand the characterisation of enzymes, prebiotics and fibres used to enhance broiler production performance. Further research is required to determine which factors influence fibre degradation and stimulation of gastrointestinal microbiota.’’

    The part of her PhD she has enjoyed the most is combining her detailed research with working with the chickens.

    “I've found that working with animals, as well as conducting laboratory analyses on diet, digesta, and excreta samples are highly fulfilling.’’

    When the 27-year-old saw that there was an opportunity to study a PhD at Harper Adams University she jumped at the chance.

    “Harper Adams University has one of the best poultry facilities and is home to the National Institute for Poultry Husbandry.’’

    “I was also honoured to start working with known experts such as Vasil Pirgozliev, Paul Rose and Stephen Mansbridge.’’

    “I researched the University before applying and I was particularly happy that it was a rural campus as living amongst nature is something I quite enjoy.”

    Antonija is currently in the third year of her PhD research and once she has finished her studies she is hoping to continue working in academia.



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