New antibiotic alternative on Russian poultry farms

22-02-2021 | | |
Russian poultry farms use botulin, a phytobiotic derived from the bark of birch trees, instead of antibiotics. Photo: ANP
Russian poultry farms use botulin, a phytobiotic derived from the bark of birch trees, instead of antibiotics. Photo: ANP

By 2025, Russian poultry farms could stop the use of feed antibiotics by including betulin in feed rations. The phytobiotic, which is derived from the bark of birch trees, is widely known for giving the tree its white colour, which appears to protect the tree from mid-winter overheating by the sun.

A group of scientists from the Ural branch of the Russian Academy of Science ran an experiment with the Ross-308 crossbreed at a broiler farm in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia. The results of the study have been published in the Russian scientific magazine Veterinary Today. Birds in the experimental group had dry betulin added into the rations from the 21st to the 35th day of rearing at a rate of 2.5 mg per kg of live weight. The introduction of a feed additive based on betulin into the diet contributed to an increase in live weight gain and pectoral muscle weight by 7.6% compared to the control group, the scientists reported.

Effects of betulin on meat quality

Scientists also discovered that the consumption of the phytobiotic by broilers led to a decrease in the deposition of subcutaneous and abdominal fat, increased the biological quality of meat by increasing the content of ash elements, improved the technological properties of meat by increasing the water-holding capacity of muscle fibre, as well as by intensifying of formation and maturation of muscle fibre. When performing histological studies of tissue samples of the pancreas of broiler chickens, an increase in the area of islets of Langerhans, insulin-producing cell complexes, was found. Under the influence of the betulin-based feed additive, the pancreas was activated. The results indicate that the use of betulin in broiler production is promising, the scientists concluded.

Russia embraces new trends
Russian farmers find themselves in a new reality as over the past few years, the country’s environmental-protecting organisations have become a force to be reckoned with.

No progress so far

Russian veterinary regulations still do not limit the permitted use of antibiotics at poultry farms. As explained by Petr Kanardov, general director of consulting agency Feedland Group, there are fundamental differences in the approach to the use of feed antibiotics in poultry feeding in Russia and western countries. In Russia, the main focus is the absence of residual antibiotics in livestock production so that Russian manufacturers can use these drugs in unlimited quantities. The main thing is that they should not be found in the final product, Kanardov said. The Russian government has been mulling plans to address this issue, but no real efforts have been made during the past few years.

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Vladislav Vorotnikov Eastern European correspondent