This study examines three possible methods for improving the digestibility and bioavailability of zinc to rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mikiss). The first method was to examine the availability of the zinc utilisation from commonly used protein sources; the second was to assess the efficacy of the upstream use of an enzyme treatment of the raw materials; the third was to assess the use of organically complexed mineral supplements as opposed to the inorganic salts widely used at present. The first section indicated that the zinc from the soyabean meal was the most available (49.4%). The zinc digestibilities of the animal based protein used in this current study were 15.1% for LT94 fish meal, 26.6% for the Provimi 66 white fishmeal and 15.8% for poultry meat meal. The zinc in the maize/corn gluten meal was 31.9% digestible and from the NuPro 26.1%. Gram for gram maize gluten meal supplied the least amount of zinc to the fish (3.66 mg per kg). Based on these results the diets for the subsequent supplementation trials were formulated. The liver, eye and caudal fin were identified biomarkers of a severe zinc deficiency. The second part of the study revealed a soybean product, treated by exogenous enzymes, had a higher phosphorus digestibility, (49.0%, vs. 36.6%) and zinc digestibility (30.7% vs. 7.9%) The treatment did not improve the protein digestibility (85%). The third part of the study showed the organic source proved more digestible than the inorganic, 37.4% and 26.9% respectively. The fish fed the organic source maintained a higher level of zinc in both the eye and caudal fin. The liver zinc levels were unaffected by both dietary level and zinc source. Analysis of the liver for a zinc dependant protein showed that under stress conditions only the organic supplemented fish were able to synthesis this protein. The analysis of the mRNA levels coding for this protein indicate the fish on both zinc forms up regulated the production of the mRNA to the same extent when stressed. Finally this study also examined the viability of using a stable isotope to identify different ‘preferences’ for one form of supplementation over the other in different tissues. This method illustrated a tissue dependant difference to how the fish attempted physiologically to compensate for zinc deficiency. The rate of turnover was fastest in the liver, then the caudal fin and then the eye, and also showed that when the diet was more deficient there was an increased ability for the tissues to take up the organic form.

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