Gut health: Reducing antibiotic use in poultry production

With increased pressure placed on reducing antibiotic use on farm, the poultry industry has been making strides to address disease challenges by promoting gut health. Emily Marshall from Alltech discusses one model concept that can be used to encourage gut health in an article published in Poultry World.

Broiler production places an emphasis on low feed conversion ratio and high growth rate and breeders and layers focus on the number of viable hatching eggs per bird or eggs per bird.   Gut health is the hidden key to meeting these goals and thus the link between bird quality and performance. A balanced gut microbiota, disease pressure, villi length and surface area, and mucosal immunity are among the factors influencing the effectiveness of a gastrointestinal (GI) system.

The key to good gut health is microbiome diversity

During a disease challenge, energy that would have gone toward growth is diverted to implementing an immune response and fighting the infection.   By maintaining a healthy and effective GI system, disruptions to production during diseases challenges can be reduced which in turn will reduce the need for antibiotics. Microorganisms in the GI tract creates a unique environment to that bird. Having more and a greater variety of microorganisms creates a stronger and more stable immune system. Increased microbial diversity ensures that there is competition between bacterial species for resources in the bird and pose a challenge for foreign and invasive species (pathogenic bacteria) to grow or replicate efficiently.

Promoting good gut health: ‘Seed, Feed, Weed’

Seed, Feed, Weed concept model created by Professor Collett of the University of the University of Georgia encompasses key factors influencing gut health. This concept is conscious of commercial operations where it is farm specific, cost effective, and designed to be sustainable. It consists of seeding the gut with the right bacteria, feeding them and maintain a proper environment for them to survive, and weeding the unfavorable microorganisms before they colonize the intestinal tract. This approach is a comprehensive program developed to improve the gut health of birds and can be applied to breeder, broiler, or layer practices.

Antibiotics will still have a crucial role to play in incidences of disease outbreak. Programs such as ‘Seed, Feed, Weed’ will assist in the journey to reduce antibiotic usage on farm while improving bird gut health and enhancing their performance.

Read the full article here.