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Functional Additives
Friday, June 16, 2017 12:39:12 AM
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Best practices in poultry feeding


Ngai Meng CHAN, communication manager, eFeedLink  (ngaimengchan@efeedlink.com)



Nutrient requirements of poultry are influenced by numerous factors such as the age and size of the bird, production level, energy content of the ration, physical form of diet, sex of the bird, nutritional adequacy of the diet, and environmental temperature. Prescribing a common set of quantities of nutrients for birds at all seasons, for different ages and under all conditions, could therefore be said to be a highly complex task.


Despite the complex nature of accurately determining the nutrient requirements of poultry under all conditions, best practices have been established for certain aspects of poultry feeding.


For example, in a South Asian context, Prabakran (2003) had recommended that the feeder space available with a given feeder can be approximately calculated by multiplying the length by two (for linear feeders) or the diameter by three (for circular feeders), and the required number of feeders per batch accordingly calculated. Suggested feeder space allowances per broiler at different ages were recommended as follows: 0-2 weeks - 3 cm; 3-4 weeks - 5 cm; > 4 weeks - 8 cm.


More recently, one cannot avoid hearing the ubiquitous 'antibiotic-free' discussion in poultry production, with some calling for 'best-practice' alternative solutions to be developed. One question remains: are best-practice alternative solutions available, or are they still very much a work in progress?


Perhaps it might be first worthwhile to go back a bit into the development of the use of antibiotics as growth promoters. Although their growth-promoting effects have been repeatedly shown in various studies, the mechanism of action for the enhancement of growth of sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics remains unclear, according to Giguere et al. (2006).


And according to the British Review on Antimicrobial Resistance commissioned by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, more questions remain unanswered:


There is growing evidence to suggest that antibiotics used as growth promoters do not have as much economic benefit as previously thought, particularly in countries with advanced farming techniques…Recently published papers suggest that the benefit from a growth perspective of using antibiotics sub-therapeutically in animals has declined over time… Studies in the U.S., Denmark and Sweden, after the 2000s, showed that growth promoters had less effect than they had done in earlier decades on the growth rate, and feed efficiency of animals. The impact after the 2000s was typically less than 5 percent.


What could also be inferred from these findings is that while growth promoters make little difference for modern, high-tech and clean farms, they might still be effective in developing countries, where farming practices are less advanced, and where meat consumption is growing the most rapidly, wrote McKenna in a 2015 National Geographic article.


She further drew an analogy to the debate on climate change which pits industrialised nations against emerging economies, and raised the concern that the antibiotic-free movement might need to overcome similar obstacles.

Coming back to the question: are global, best-practice alternative solutions available, or even practical?


Perhaps just like the development of the use of antibiotic growth promoters, the industry at large are finding answers to alternative solutions, bit by bit. Anonye (2016) suggested that the search for PFAs (phytogenic feed additives, part of such alternative solutions) with desirable properties is not trivial. Single and different combinations of PFAs need to be tested against different strains of pathogenic bacteria in vitro and in vivo to determine their antimicrobial activity, and more studies will be needed to determine the exact mode of action of these PFAs, he added. He also suggested that it might be worth looking at other alternatives to antibiotics such as prebiotics, probiotics, and bacteriocins to determine their effects on animals.


Indeed, several companies have already been developing a variety of such other alternative products by elucidating their specific modes of action through research.


In the following pages, eFeedLink profiles one company which is helping to educate the industry on the differences between different probiotic strains how they affect feed formulation.
Do We Misperceive Probiotics?
Kevin Liu, Claire Xu, Adisseo Asia Pacific P/L, Singapore; Stephanie Pedrosa, Adisseo France S.A.S.



During recent years, the consumers' demands for sustainable animal production and safe foods put more pressure on the classical application of antibiotic growth promotors (AGP). Following the general trend in Europe and North America, a large part of Southeast Asia has also decided to move towards AGP-free animal production, despite no true alternatives have been confirmed. Global-wise, poultry industry is gaining confidence in probiotics for their beneficial functions on the intestinal eco-system and more and more probiotic products are entering into the feed industry with various claims. However, certain misperceptions about probiotic indeed prevail, this article intends to address technical issues around probiotics.
1. Is probiotic equal to microorganism at large?
The answer is No. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a probiotic is a living organism, which can bring health benefit to the host if administered in adequate amount. Therefore 3 criteria need to be satisfied before qualifying as a probiotic:
  • Living microorganism. It must be alive when administered, should not undergo any degradation during feed process (pelleting, extrusion, conditioning, etc.), transportation, storage, and finally the digestive system in the animals before reaching the targeted host site.
  • Adequate amount. Either too little or too much supplementation would cause negative effect to the microbial balance of the host. Therefore, dosing it at the optimal level is crucial.
  • Health benefits. Most importantly, the microorganism must bring benefits or health effects to the host animal under the extremely diverse microbial world. It is also essential to understand its mode of action prior to use of a probiotic. 
2. Are all Bacillus Subtilis strains equal?
The answer is No. Probiotics having the same bacterial name may not bear the same genome composition. Bacillus subtilis is a big family with thousands of members. Probiotics derived from Bacillus Subtilis strains are usually deem of good quality because of their stability and beneficial functions to gut health. However, two probiotics may have Bacillus Subtilis strains that are 10% genetically different, just like comparing differences in terms of genomes between a man and a chimp (2%), a mouse (8%) and a chicken (12%).
3. Are all Bacillus Subtilis strains can be used as probiotic?
The answer is No. Bacillus Subtilis strains are numerous and different, thus not all strains have the required properties as probiotics. For example: one specific strain can be used in traditional Japanese food natto containing fermented soybeans; another specific strain is registered as bio-pesticide in US.
4. Is probiotic working in the same way as antibiotic?
The answer is No. Antibiotics are isolated molecules which specifically attack essential metabolic pass-way or functions of bacteria cells, and excessive use of antibiotics may accelerate gene selection process, resulting in antibiotic resistant genes or even dangerous super power bacteria that could not be cured by any current medical solutions.
In contrast, probiotics are live microorganisms that act directly or indirectly influence intestinal eco-system on three different levels:
  • On pathogens. Probiotic can inhibit or kill certain pathogenic microbes
  • On microbiota eco-system. Probiotic can produce numerous substances, such as enzymes, short-chain organic acids, to influence the intestinal eco-system.
  • On the host immune system and/or intestinal cells. Probiotic can help maintain intestinal epithelial integrity and reduce inflammation caused by pathogenic organism.
Therefore, probiotics can have multiple modes of action and benefits to the host, creating interaction between bacteria of intestinal microbiota and immune system of the host, thus providing protection against antibiotic resistance.
5. Are all probiotics equally safe?
The answer is No. Probiotics derived from different microorganisms or from the same microbial family but different genome, carry considerable properties in terms of efficacy, stability, safety and compatibility with antibiotics (Table 1).
  Table 1.  Technical comparison of 5 commercial probiotics






B. Subtilis

B. Subtilis

B. Subtilis

(B. subtilis)

B. licheniformis


B. myloliquefaciens

B. myloliquefaciens

  Anti-C. perfringens          
  Gastric stability          
  Germinate in 8 h          
  Barrier function      

Not tested

Not tested


Not tested

Not tested

Note: Green, pass; Red, Failed; Yellow: Questionable. * Compatibility with Monensin.
6. Do all probiotics have the same formulation and handling properties?
The answer is No. When efficacy is the central determinant when choosing a probiotic, to achieve consistent benefits each and every time, the probiotic formulation is important. Studies have proven that a good and innovative formulation can ensure the probiotic spores to be more homogeneous, which will in turn produce consistent amount of probiotic to each animal in the flock. In addition, selection of right carriers with adequate processing, will give additional benefits such as flowability, dustness, safety and handing.
In conclusion, Bacillus Subtilis covers a large family of thousand strains with considerable differences in their genome, hence their efficacy and handling properties. When evaluating probiotic products derived from Bacillus Subtilis, the users should understand the bacteria strain, mode of action, efficacy, safety, formula and other important factors, which enable the product to be efficacious, safe to animal and human, consistently beneficial to the animals.



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