Antibiotic growth promotion in agricultural animal production has been practiced for about 50 years. Antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) have undoubtedly improved animal performance and health status. Their removal from the poultry diets will therefore be a change with many consequences.
Removal of AGPs is currently one of the most important concerns in the poultry industry. Are improvements in biosecurity measures and management practices in poultry operations adequate to minimize consequences of AGP removal?
It has been clear from the very early studies that diets can influence the microflora of the intestinal tract and as a result, response to antibiotic growth promoters can also be affected. With removal of antibiotics from feed and subsequent changes in microbial population of the intestinal tract, interaction between diet and microflora has become even more prominent.
These interactions will make the intestinal environment more challenging which may then affect performance and health status of the host animal. Gut health and possible ways to maintain intestinal integrity have been one of the main areas in poultry research projects in recent years.
Removal of AGPs from poultry feed and subsequent increases in infections in animals, despite efforts to improve animal production management practices, have resulted in a substantial increase in the use of therapeutic antibiotics for food animals in Europe.
The efforts and expenditure involved in the imposition of the ban would have been better spent on achieving rational antibiotic use in humans and animals, and on much greater efforts to understand the complex epidemiology of antibiotic resistance.
Although sub-therapeutic (in-feed) use of antibiotics has been banned in Europe, there are many countries in different parts of the world that still rely on in-feed antibiotics. It is difficult, therefore, to assess the success of current efforts to establish practical approaches as replacement for antibiotic growth promoters on a global basis.
Is there any alternative?
All evidence suggests that it is unlikely that a single economically viable replacement to AGPs could be implemented. It has become increasingly clear that a multi-factorial approach is needed to address the challenges specific to the on-farm situation.
An effective alternative to in-feed antibiotics should have a significant and sustainable beneficial impact on animal production (e.g. feed efficiency, body weight gain) and health, be proven safe for both the animal and human population, be easy to apply and store and provide a substantial return on investment.
Is this alternative currently available to the poultry industry or will be in the near future?
Cost-effectiveness is a very important determinant when we want to implement a new strategy in the poultry industry. How is this trend (alternative to antibiotics) going on in your region? Is it a major concern for the industry and public? What do you think about ban of prophylactic use of antibiotics and its subsequent effects on the poultry industry in your country?