Probiotics could help reduce antibiotic use in livestock

Probiotics could play a significant role in the fight to reduce antibiotic use in livestock according to Danish scientists.

Speaking at a press day at Chr Hansen, Hørsholm near Copenhagen, the company’s sales manager, Lars-Inge Olsson explained how getting the intestinal flora right by introducing “friendly bacteria” could prevent a lot of diseases from breaking out.

“Probiotics need to come to the fore to reduce antibiotic use,” he said.

However, he explained that the main barrier was producer’s attitudes to additional feed costs from using probiotics.

“If you increase feed costs by 1p an animal, everyone screams, but ask many farmers if they know their treatment costs and antibiotic use and they don’t.

“By introducing a probiotic you may increase feed costs by 1p, but you could reduce antibiotic use by 10p an animal,” he said.

Christer Olsson stressed there needed to be a change in farmer’s mindset so that they no longer took antibiotic use as a natural part of their system.

“Generally across livestock sectors – except pigs in Denmark – the level of prescribed antibiotics is on the increase in both Denmark and the UK and there is a real need to take down the amount of antibiotic use.

“In South America probiotics are an official part of the salmonella control strategy in broilers,” he said.

Jen Noesgaar Jørgensen, global product manager for swine, explained that regardless of animal species, it was crucial to give stock a good start and promote the quick growth of bacteria in the gut. Failure to do so would bring a high risk of diarrhoea.

In Denmark, 220 million doses of antibiotic (the majority of treatment) are used to improve intestinal problems in pigs, and mostly in weaners.

“About 50% of cases of post weaning diarrhoea in Danish piglets, there is no evidence of any pathogen cause such as E coli or clostridia. It is generally believed that incidence is linked to overgrowth of some normal bacteria. If bacteria diversity disappears, there is a greater likelihood of diarrhoea.”

And the development of healthy gut micro-organisms can be encouraged through the use of probiotics:

“We can influence performance by securing better functionality in the gastro intestinal tract which will have a direct impact on pathogens.” When given in adequate numbers, Bacillus species (friendly bacteria) can out-compete pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella and E coli.

Using a probiotic in finishers has been shown to reduce finisher mortality from Hemorrhagic bowel syndrome caused by clostridia, from 4.4 to 3.38%.

How probiotics work: 

  Competitive exclusion

• Stimulation of immune system

• Enhanced intestinal surface area

• Reduction of damage to gut lining

• Improved microflora

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