Posts

Antibiotic-free – Take the stress out of antibiotic-free feeding

The fear of loss in animal performance and profitability can make farmers and integrators apprehensive to reduce antibiotic growth promotors (AGPs) in animal diets. However, a better understanding of nutritional stressors and appropriate biosecurity measures can provide reassurance, that life and profitability will go on with antibiotic-free feeding.

In the US many farmers use antibiotics to treat, prevent, and control animal diseases and increase the productivity of animals and operations. However, there is concern that routine antibiotic use in livestock will contribute to antimicrobial-resistant pathogens, with repercussions for human and animal health. Given these concerns, pressure to limit antibiotic uses for purposes other than disease treatment is mounting. Maintaining a profitable future is looking promising with sound management and new alternatives to AGPs.

Scary news
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that antibiotic resistance is responsible for more than 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths each year in the United States (CDC 2013).

Earlier this year, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort, for the first time. According to a top US public health official this could be the end of the road for antibiotics. Another report mentions that the “new superbug” MCR—a gene, carried by gut bacteria, that confers resistance to the absolutely last resort antibiotic Colistin—has been in the United States for at least a year.

Relationship between use and resistance
In their 2015 report “The state of the world’s antibiotics” the US Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy states that the greater the volume of antibiotics used, the greater the chances that antibiotic-resistant populations of bacteria will prevail and that antibiotic resistance is a direct result of antibiotic use.

Two trends are threatening to increase global antibiotic consumption and therefore the risk for antibiotic resistance: First, rising incomes are increasing access to antibiotics, which is increasing the use in the human population. Second, the increased demand for animal protein and resulting intensification of food animal production is leading to greater use of antibiotics in agriculture. In the United States an estimated 80 percent of all antibiotics consumed are used in food animals (U. S. FDA 2010).

Changing consumer demands in the US
Consumer awareness of antibiotic use in livestock production has increased. One indication of the growing demand for products raised with limited antibiotic use is a Consumer Reports 2012 survey of 1,000 U.S. residents finding that 86 percent of consumers would like the ability to buy meat raised without antibiotics at their local supermarket. This survey found that over 60 percent would be willing to pay an additional $0.05 per pound for meat raised without antibiotics, and 37 percent were willing to pay an additional dollar per pound.

Major retailers and restaurant chains such as McDonalds, Subway, Panera Bread, Chipotle, Applegate, Whole Foods and Costco have picked up on this and are taking a proactive stance to eliminate the use of antibiotics over a given time frame. For instance, Chic-fil-A, the largest U.S. chicken chain by domestic sales volume, has committed to serve only 100 percent antibiotic-free chicken by 2019. The company announced that as of March 2015, it had already converted 20 percent of its chicken supply.

In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued final guidance on voluntarily phasing out the use of medically important antibiotics (those important for therapeutic use in humans) for livestock production purposes.

How to stay profitable

For farming operations, the biggest fear of reducing the use of antibiotic growth promotors in feed or stop their preventive use entirely is that it will reduce economic returns from animal production. However, there is research showing that antibiotics used for production purposes generally have limited effects on the productivity of raising livestock at the farm level and the effect has been decreasing significantly over time (Table 1).

Latest research in Belgium and the Netherlands has shown that reducing the use of antibiotics in animal feed, does not endanger the economic situation of pig farms when biosafety measures and vaccinations are applied. On the contrary, in finishing pigs it can lead to €2.67 more profit per head.

In this research, there was an active emphasis on improving biosecurity status, the vaccination scheme and farm management. On average, the farms received advice for a timeframe of roughly 8 months. While there was a reduction of use in antibiotics by 52% from farrow to slaughter, there was a significant increase in biosecurity. At the same time there was higher daily growth (+7.7 g/d) and a reduced mortality during finishing (-0.6%).

Table1_Anco

Success will depend on operations
In practice, the effects of eliminating antibiotic growth promotors from animal feed are likely to vary considerably and will depend on current practices and external conditions (Laxminarayan et al. 2015). Operations with better sanitation, less crowding, and more modern production practices are likely to be affected less than older operations that have not updated their facilities and practices. In Sweden, the ban on growth promoters had a greater effect on producers with lower hygiene standards (Wierup 2001).

Keeping up with the top players
Major meat producers such as Smithfield foods, Seaboard foods, Tyson and Perdue, Pilgrim’s Pride, Foster Farms have already taken steps to reduce the use of antibiotics in their operations and/or even to introduce antibiotic-free production lines. Perdue announced in July 2015 that more than half of their birds are produced antibiotic-free.

A global feed survey carried out by WATT revealed that 58 percent of respondents consider the elimination of antibiotic growth promotors in feed as a critical obstacle to overcome in 2016 and 65 percent of the participants in the survey report that their company is actively testing or using alternatives to AGPs.
The above trends are clearly following consumer pressure and/or government regulation mentioned earlier.

Ready, steady, agile – new alternatives to go antibiotic-free

Agility is the capacity to anticipate change, respond, adapt quickly and thrive in a changing environment. The key question is whether the natural ability of animals to adapt to nutritional challenges and other stressors can be deliberately accelerated and optimized to benefit animal performance and the agility of animal production systems.

Research in genetic selection shows that improving the ability of animals to cope with stressors is a better way of improving performance than selecting only for increased growth potential. Genetic selection is certainly going to play an important role for advancement in this capability of the animal. However, nutritional strategies supporting the speed and efficacy with which the animal adapts to stressors will bring a more immediate competitive advantage in animal production.

A new approach to nutrition is to support the agility of the gut, i.e. its ability to adapt to nutritional stress factors efficiently. The agile gut is quicker to respond to prevent negative stress reactions, such as oxidative stress, loss in appetite, increased gut permeability and inflammation, which can cause waste of metabolic energy and increased risk of disease.

Agile nutritional concepts are designed to empower animals to adapt to a variety of nutritional stress factors, for more robust and energy-efficient animals. They rely on bioactive substances mainly derived from plants, known to prevent some of the negative stress reactions seen at the cellular level and offer a safe alternative to AGPs.

Field trial with Anco FIT in antibiotic-free nursery pig diets

Applying Anco FIT in antibiotic-free nursery diets in a field trial under commercial conditions improved growth performance by >20% in the first 3 weeks and by 10% overall (Figure 1 below). Pig producers also reported a reduction in the amount of medication required for nursery pigs.

Impact of stress factors amplified with antibiotic-free diets

Weaning is a particularly stressful period for the pig and since the digestive system is not fully developed yet, the pig is also more susceptible to nutritional stress factors including less digestible nutrients and mycotoxins. This is particularly evident, when diets are fed antibiotic-free.

Importance of feed intake post-weaning

In the early stages post weaning, growth and development of the pig are driven by feed intake in a linear fashion. Scientific studies have shown that for every 0.1 kg extra feed per day during the first week post-weaning, body weight increases about 1.5 kg at the end of the fourth week post-weaning.

Weaning performance affects days to market

Feed intake in the first week post-weaning, also has consequences for later stages of growth. In studies conducted at Kansas State University, pigs that maintained or lost weight during the first week post-weaning required 10 extra days to reach market weight, compared with pigs that gained about 0.25 kg/day during the same period. Wilcock (2009) reported that for every 17g/day in the first twenty days post weaning, an increase of 1kg at slaughter can be expected.

Kansas state

Field trial, in nursery pigs Austria 2016

Commercial nursery pigs were fed antibiotic-free diets containing up to 36% corn, some wheat and some barley. Pigs did not receive medication. Average weaning weight was 9.3kg.

Nursery pigs fed Anco FIT in the diet gained considerably more weight compared to the control pigs, particularly in the first 22 days. This advantage was maintained at 41d weight (Figure 1 below).

Read more about pig production in Austria: here.

Video Link: What matters to Austrian pig farmers feeding Anco FIT

nursery pigs performance

ANCO knowledge: What matters to quality pork producers

Pork producers certified by AMA (Agrarmarkt Austria Marketing) produce pork of the highest quality standard in Austria (see more info below). What really matters to them in pig production is high performance, quality and flexibility in production, whilst feeding antibiotic-free diets and meeting the top demands on animal production from consumers in Austria.

3 most wanted characteristics in farmers by the public

1. 85% treat animals responsibly
2. 82% treat the environment responsibly
3. 77% produce food of high quality
(survey of 1000 people, Bauernbund 2015)

What does the AMA seal approval stand for?

AMA_gutesiegel_logo

Food products that carry the AMA (Agrarmarkt Austria Marketing) seal of approval
• Meet the highest quality standards.
• Transparency: It guarantees that foodstuffs can be traced to their source.
• Farmers, processing plants and retailers certified by AMA conform to standards, which are stricter than required by law and are monitored by independent testing centers.
• Animals raised and slaughtered in Austria.
• Antibiotics are only allowed for treatment and only with prescription from vets. If animals are treated with antibiotics withdrawal times are twice as long as what is required by law.
• The majority of feed comes from home grown cereals. Any feed supplements need to be bought from AMA certified feed manufacturers.

Number of AMA certified pig producers

Currently there are 1800 pig producers in Austria, that are producing according to AMA standards. The total number of pig producers in Austria is around 30 000.

Agriculture and pig production in Austria

The agricultural sector in Austria is shaped by small family farms.

The average farm in Austria has:
• 71 pigs
• an average utilized agricultural area (UAA) in ha per farm of 19.3 ha
• 14% have more than 50 ha.
• 34% of arable land is producing feed grain
(Federal Institute of Agricultural Economics 2011).

Out of around 132653 farms in Austria:
• 56% are part-time farmers
• 17% are organic farmers
• 80% are livestock farmers
• 23% are pig farmers

The current economic value of pig production in Austria is 860 Mio Euro (Bauernbund 2015).