Pathogen Control – Getting healthy and fast growing animals is vital for profitability

Pathogen Control   Getting healthy and fast growing animals is vital for profitability
Pathogen Control Getting healthy and fast growing animals is vital for profitability

Since the 2006 antibiotic ban many new ideas have come to be considered and many have failed. For a product to succeed it must be consistent in its effect and consistent in use. Many products fail to establish themselves on the market and that is because customers lack confidence.

By Murray Hyden, Director of Biosecurity at Optivite Ltd, United Kingdom

When antibiotics were first used in feed they worked and everyone had confidence in them. Many years later antibiotics are being blamed for all sorts of things and the discovery of ever increasing numbers of antibiotic, and multiple antibiotic strains of bacterial pathogens required Governmental intervention.

In 2006 the EU introduced a ban on antibiotics for use as growth promoters in an attempt to prevent the occurrence of human problems such as MRSA and antibiotic resistant Clostridium difficile but this change was not properly introduced and many antibiotics switched from prophylactic to therapeutic dose rates in an attempt to prevent disease.

Organic acids

As alternatives were found, organic acid combinations became the dominant product for disease control. The advantage of these is that they are both effective and consistent in their effect without the possibility of resistance.

Acids are also used in combination with essential oils and oligosaccharides to enhance their activity. Optivite, for example, have been enhancing their organic acid and essential oil premixes and now have a complete range of products tailored to suit the requirements of producers worldwide.

Now the European Commission intends to further cut the use of antibiotics in agriculture by announcing a package of measures to gain better control of the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry.

Gene exchange

In the United States, where antibiotic usage is more common than in Europe, researchers have reported that antibiotics used in feed have been found to encourage gene exchange between gut bacteria, which may lead to the development of antimicrobial resistance.

Workers at the USDA National Animal Disease Center have shown that two in-feed antibiotic formulations can affect prophages that have the potential to carry antibiotic resistance genes in their nucleic acid.

Prophages multiply by inserting their nucleic acid into the bacterial cell genome. The new hosts may then carry the antibiotic resistant genes of the prophage. Eventually the prophage will be excised from the bacterial nucleic acid and will become a bacteriophage.

The researchers reported that in pig trials the antibiotic treated animals showed increased movement of prophage genes amongst gut bacteria. The possibility of these prophage induced antibiotic resistant strains infecting humans becomes a significant threat for the medical services that have to control such infections.

Better immune system in pigs

The health of a breeding sow makes a huge difference to the profitability of any pig farm. Companies have been working for many years to improve breeding sow health and products such as Optivite Genex Sow has been found in numerous trials to be ideal for the purpose of maximising the production of high numbers of viable piglets.

Parameters improved include litter size, reduced mortality, faster growth rates of piglets and heavier weaning weights. Using Genex sow in the lactation rations improves gut health and nutrient availability by increasing villi length to ensure piglets receive the best possible start in life.


Young piglets receive a massive boost of antibodies in the colostrum and this is continued at a reduced rate through to weaning. However weaning at 3 or 4 weeks leaves the piglet susceptible to infection as its own immune system is not yet up to speed.

The resultant weaning scours will set a piglet back at best and can result in mortality in severe cases. Optiweaner is, for example, a combination product using acids and fructo-oligosaccharides and butyric acid. The butyric acid protects the villi and the oligosaccharides encourage gut colonisation by the acidophilic bacteria from the Lactobacillaceae family typically fed as probiotics.

The acid continues to provide feed and gut biosecurity. Fed through to 9 weeks when the immune system is fully developed Optiweaner will reduce the risk of scours and optimise weight gain.

Growers, finishers

For growing pigs through to finishers, feed biosecurity and an acid boost in the foregut are all that should be required. By the time weaners are ready for the grower rations the immune system will be competent having been allowed to develop naturally whilst on the butyric acid and fructo-oligosaccharide weaner rations.

By maintaining good feed biosecurity and high stomach acidity growers develop quickly and with things like improved dung score the entire farm biosecurity is improved reducing the risk of horizontal transmission.

Boosting poultry performance

In poultry, breeders are valuable birds that should not be fed antibiotics as they can mask underlying problems. However these birds need protection from hatch throughout their productive life. This is often seen to be a strict biosecurity programme but the programme will only be as good as the people enforcing it and a momentary breech will run the risk of infection in unprotected birds.

Controlled release acidifiers like Salgard protects the feed from the point of manufacture through to ingestion by the bird. In the gut the acid and the carrier combination help create optimum intestinal conditions by providing more acidic conditions that reduce the colonisation risk from pathogens. This is also important as it reduces the contamination risk from faecal contamination of the eggs.


Similarly layers require long term protection from pathogens. However layer farms seldom have such intense biosecurity measures as breeders simply as a result of the scale of the operation.

Rations for layers contain high levels of calcium that makes it much more difficult for the bird to control intestinal pH and the result is often an intestinal pH that favours some potential pathogens. This was where the original Salmonella scare started.

Salgard works, as it does in breeders, as an acid source to help overcome the buffering of the calcium salts and helps optimise gut conditions for improved nutrient absorption. Used in conjunction with an Omega 3 product like Optomega, the effect can be further enhanced as the omega-3 oils can improve the efficiency with which the acids can penetrate the bacterial cell walls to kill them.


Broilers grow much faster and have a much higher feed intake. This high volume feeding creates more pressure on the acid secretion capability in the bird to prevent pathogens from the feed and the environment passing through the crop and proventriculus into the small intestine. Here, a fast acting acid delivery system is necessary and the strong acid content and fast release carrier matrix such as used in Optimax is ideally suited to the job.

With a very uniform micropearl carrier dispersion into the feed is easy to achieve and due to the high liquid acid content the acid release in the proventriculus is ideally suited to countering the negative effects of rapid feed intake.