25 February 2000

Nutrition immunity

IMPROVING animals immunity using nutrition could provide an alternative to antibiotics in future, according to American research.

Research council guidelines on nutrition often took no account of nutrient needs for good immunity, Kirk Klasing of California University told the conference.

"Work with healthy broilers shows that 1% of nutrient intake is used for maintenance of the immune system, but when birds suffer an acute infection 7% of nutrients are used in the immune response. This diverts nutrients away from growth."

Increasing levels of specific nutrients such as vitamin E might also be effective against certain diseases, said Prof Klasing.

"Current American guidelines advise 10iu of vitamin E for broilers a day. But our research shows that when vitamin E levels fall below 15iu, septicaemia incidence increases."

While research has so far concentrated on broilers, Prof Klasing believes the principles are applicable to other species. "There may be scope for controlling scour in piglets by manipulating iron and omega 3 fatty acids.

"But as all herds have different disease problems and management regimes, advice needs to be given on an individual herd basis."