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Animal Health
Friday, February 24, 2017 7:28:19 PM
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Raising pigs antibiotic-free thanks to algae






Concerns on the emergence of antibiotic resistance are calling for innovative technologies that provide alternatives to antibiotics for use in animal health and production, in a One Health approach. In this context, based on its innovative technologies (Extraction of biologically active extracts from algae, production of powerful algae-clay original materials), Olmix has developed a comprehensive program, aiming at accompanying producers to decrease the use of antibiotics, achieving "antibiotic free production" and thus limiting the development of antibiotic resistance. This program acting both on environment of the animals and on the animals themselves is adapted to each farm and based on a holistic approach and relies on the use of specific algae-based products together with a strong technical and management support in the farms. For the last 2 years, the Olmix animal care technical teams have work on projects in pig operations with the aim of reaching significant and measurable decrease of antibiotic use, even in preventive mode.


Olmix strategy to implement antibiotic free Antibiotics usage:

A step by step method…

Implementing antibiotic free programs in facilities that have been routinely using antibiotics for many years require some specific steps to achieve success.


For Olmix, the first step was to identify operators willing to decrease their antibiotic use, with an interest for marketing differentiation towards the final customers. The first marketing differentiation being the "raised antibiotic free" allegation, the second one being the "Thanks to Algae" cobranding.

The farms where the projects have been conducted were regular antibiotic users. In pig farming, for instance, a systematic antibiotic treatment is often prescribed at day 2 or 3 when neonatal piglet care is performed (teeth grinding, tail clipping, iron injection…). The main reason for this is to prevent potential arthritis issues and to secure operations and wounds creating route for germs entry. Piglets also very often receive antibiotic treatments in their early stage, via the supplementation of creep feeds and pre-starter feeds. 


The second step was to have a clear and detailed overview of the technical situation of the farms. For this, Olmix pig experts entered the farms and made full audits of the biosecurity, feed and water management, sanitary status, prophylactic protocols, building quality and organizations, staff education…The purpose was to evaluate the feasibility to reach antibiotic free production and also to check if the withdrawal of antibiotics would not be jeopardizing the farm economical results.


The third step was to adapt the Olmix antibiotic free program to support the progressive withdrawal of antibiotics.


The pig program is built to act on the 5 main functionalities that influence animal's status and performance and based on the experience of Olmix technical teams. The program focus on environmental hygiene, feed safety managing mycotoxin risk together with the support the immunity and digestive welfare and efficiency. The program is adapted to each physiological phases of the animals (from sows, to finishing pigs). (Figure 1)


Figure 1:


Farm hygiene is an essential tool to work on the decrease of antibiotic use. From sow's barns to fattening pigs units, drying and sanitizing the environment of the animals, thanks to MISTRAL, allows to decrease the sanitary pressure, the bacteria activity and therefore the ammonia production. Drying piglets at birth both increases their vitality (less body temperature losses) and reduces contamination route by bacterias.


Mycotoxin contamination is one of the major factor influencing the sensitivity of the animals to virus and bacteria, due to loss of immunity, and this even with low mycotoxin levels. Consequently, high importance is given to feed quality and safety in the Olmix antibiotic free program, using Olmix different tools to evaluate the risk (Myco'evaluator, Myco'screen) and applying MT.X+ at the feed-mill.


Immunity is one of the main leverage we can use to avoid the misuse of antibiotics. Olmix's complementary feed Searup modulates the immunity having a direct impact on animal's natural defenses. Searup contains specific Algal Sulfated Polysaccharides (MSPIMMUNITY) with immunomodulating properties. The MSPIMMUNITY was the subject of several studies conducted by the French National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA). Tested in vitro, using an intestinal epithelial cell line (IPEC-1), MSPIMMUNITY stimulated the expression of many immune mediators (Berri et al., 2016). The diversity of cytokines and chimiokines that were up-regulated by MSPIMMUNITY suggests that the algae extract is able to stimulate both cellular-mediated and humoral immune pathways, involved either in innate or adaptive immunity. Further study in sows, proved that when supplied around vaccination and before farrowing, MSP has the capacity to increase the amount of IgG-AB (anti-Bordetella, marker of atrophic rhinitis vaccination) in gilts' colostrum via an increased transudation from the serum. The study also demonstrated an increased level of IgA in gilts' milk, at day 7 and day 21 after farrowing.  Stimulating animal's immunity make them stronger and better able to resist to virus and diseases. Searup is a soluble product that can be easily distributed in the drinking water during stress phases or around vaccination.


Digestive efficiency is also important to avoid metabolic troubles (overload of digestive organs in intense phases) or digestive troubles (fermentation of non digested feed).

Sows digestive organs are highly solicited before farrowing, leading to problems of fat overload in the liver. The use of DigestSea containing an other type of specific Algal Sulfated Polysaccharides with enhanced anti-hyperlipidemic properties (MSPLIPIDS) around farrowing allows to stimulate liver metabolism of sows, thus preventing the above mentioned disorders.

The capacity of algal polysaccharides to improve liver metabolism was evidenced by Pengzhan et al. (2003), who highlighted the capacity of ulvans (MSP from green algae Ulva sp) to lower the level of liver pathologies of rats while decreasing their levels of triglycerides and increasing the excretion of bile acids in the feces.


Digestsea can be used in the drinking water or in topdressing. The main field observation are: reduction of farrowing days, improved appetite and better milking capacity of the sows. Consequently, piglets are stronger, show lower diarrhea incidence. Runt and mortality rates are decreased.

In parallel, Olmix program recommends the use of MFEED+ in the feed. This algo-clay based innovative product boosts the activity of digestive enzymes throughout the gut allowing a better use of the nutriments of the feed, particularly important in growing animals. Hence leading to better performance while reducing the risk of digestive troubles.


Digestive welfare constitutes the final protection for animals in Olmix program. Olmix has been working on the capacity of some MSP to protect the intestinal epithelium by stimulating the production of mucins (glycoproteins secreted by goblet cells constituting the mucus gel that coats the intestinal epithelium and protects it). The mucus layer prevents the attachment and colonization of bacteria on the mucosa, and limits the intestinal absorption of toxins. Therefore, stimulating the production of mucin in order to protect the intestine turns out to be a relevant strategy to support intestinal development of young piglets and to prevent digestive disorders.

Olmix has developed a full range of products to support digestive welfare of animals, relying on its MSPMUCIN, which stimulates the production of mucin by goblet cells and so reinforces the intestinal mucus layer.


First target in piglet is reducing digestive troubles at birth that can lead to high mortality and morbidity and of course to an over use of antibiotics. SEAGUT Paste is based on the combination of seaweed extract (MSPMUCIN) and micronized clays (soft milling process preserving its layered structure and increasing contact surface and coating properties). Seagut Paste can be given orally to litters presenting digestive troubles. Multisite trials in France (10 farms, 67 litters with diarrheas) have demonstrated that SeaGut paste was efficient to stop troubles in 76% of cases, with a single application dose being necessary in 69% of cases.


To follow up, the use of Ecopiglet, a complementary feed in powder also based on MSPMUCIN and micronized clays can be used to support the intestinal development of suckling piglets, so that they have less digestive troubles in farrowing unit, and better performance around weaning. Trials conducted in spain (Tests and trials) have demonstrated the ability of the product to increase weight at weaning (+200g) while encountering less diarrheas (-52% cumulated).


Standard programs built from this range of product need to be fine-tuned to the management of each farm, according to the specific conditions of each production system.



…Leading to success !

Experience in one 800 sow unit : 94% of the piglets raised without antibiotics, thanks to algae !


The program was implemented in a farrow-to-finish pig operation of 840 sows in France. The farm was submitted to a detailed audit in December, 2015, from which an action plan was prepared and agreed with all collaborators. The action plan aimed at reducing antibiotic use from 100% of the pigs being systematically treated with one or several antibiotics, to a maximum of 10% of the pigs being treated with only one antibiotic. Moreover, the farm manager aimed at improving piglets weaning weight.

The action plan and the use of Olmix algae-based product range was implemented step-by-step from February to May 2016. (Figure 2)

Preliminary results of this case study show that the use of coccidiostat could be stopped, and antibiotic use was reduced by 94% (Figure 3). Indeed, for the last 22 weekly weaning, 13 counted less than 6% of the piglets treated with amoxicillin, 8 had between 6 and 10,5% of the piglet treated with amoxicillin, and 1 batch was fully treated. Moreover, global performance in maternity was improved. When comparing performance of the pre-trial period (January-February, 2016) with the trial period (March-July, 2016), +234g at weaning was achieved, as well as an increased weaning rate (+0.51 weaned piglet/litter, +24 weaned piglets/week). (Figure 4)

The study continues in this farm in order to confirm the preliminary results obtained and further improve performance. The six-month feedback already shows that it is highly important to adapt the strategy to each situation, and confirms the need of a global approach to reduce the use antibiotics in farms.


Figure 2



Figure 3



Figure 4





Raising pigs antibiotic-free is not easy but feasible. The cornerstone to achieve is to gather all the stakeholders around the table, the farmer, the vet and the feed miller. Each one of them need to find its interest in applying the program. An holistic approach and some adjustment in the management before the total withdrawal of all antibiotics are required. Moreover, good combination of efficient solutions to ensure environmental hygiene, secure the feed supply by covering the mycotoxin risk and promote animal's immunity and digestive health and efficiency will also play a keep role to achieve sustainable result. Algae proved to offer innovative, efficient and reliable solutions!


Allegation will depend of the country of commercialization, USA may be the most advanced country in terms of marketing for this kind of allegation : "No Antibiotics", "Raised without Antibiotics" can be seen in packaging. The ultimate distinction is "Antibiotic free ever" : no antibiotics as growth promotors, no antibiotics as therapeutics.


By offering comprehensive strategy to reduce antibiotics in animal farming, Olmix contributes to the reduction of antibiotic-resistance, a significant contribution to « One Health » concept and thus to human health. The brand "Thanks to Algae" certify the use of Olmix algae based solutions to reach this purpose.



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Article made possible through the contribution of Olmix

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