For a long time antibiotics have covered up a lot of the bacterial threats in animal husbandry. Antibiotics are not only used to tackle bacterial threats, but also for their growth promoting effect. However, the debate on the reduction of the systematic use of antibiotics in Europe presents challenges to the industry. The feed industry today is under constant pressure to keep improving feed in order to boost animal performance and limit the amount of harmful bacteria in the feed. Here are a few pointers on how to optimize your feed for antibiotic free animal husbandry:
- Use high quality protein sources
- Heat treatment of feed
- Acidification of the feed
- Structure of the feed
Using high quality protein sources will help digestion in the small intestine, so the amount of fermentable protein in the colon is reduced. This means less feed for pathogens in the colon.
Heat treatment of feed
Using heat (in combination with pressure) eliminates potential bacterial contamination of feed. The heat processing will increase the availability of nutrients at the same time.
The use of organic acids is one of the best ways to decontaminate feed. There are many different products and blends available. The reduction of pH levels in feed and stomach and the antibacterial effects of these acids will enhance digestion and boost technical performance.
There are different ways to grind or cut grains in feed. The key is to find the optimal balance between digestibility and stimulation of gut motility.
Another way to look at bacteria is not to kill the bad ones, but to promote the good ones. This can be done with both pro -and prebiotics. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the effects, but the usage of these products is rising.
There has been an increasing discussion in the last few years about the disadvantages of the use of antibiotics as a growth promoter or as a standard management tool. First of all there is the growing fear of antibiotics resistance, especially in MRSA and ESBL’s. Resistance against antibiotics is rising and therefore human health services are trying to create awareness of untreatable bacteria. Second, we see a decline in efficacy of antibiotics at farm level because of resistance. Some pathogens are getting harder to beat the traditional way.
Other bacteria in the gut of animals - the ones we call the good ones - are also affected by antibiotics. In worst case scenarios antibiotics can even be the cause of diarrhea instead of the cure.
Looking at the pros and cons of antibiotics it is wise to look for alternatives to fight bacteria and enhance animal performance. This way we will be able to use antibiotics when we really need them in the future, which is when animals are suffering from bacterial diseases. Besides the options mentioned in this article there is a lot more to be done to increase the value of feed. Antibiotic use can be reduced this way and productivity increased. We strive to develop new ways to assist in optimizing gut health and enhancing animal performance.