- Antibiotic reduction
- Feed Producer / Feed Mill
- Antibiotic reduction
- Feed Producer / Feed Mill
A Profitable, Preventive Approach to Gut Health in Layers
Case study on a non-antibiotic approach to face pathogenic bacteria challenges in modern egg production04.06.2020
Antibiotic use in chickens is a significant cause of resistant bacteria, which poses a threat to human and animal health. It also negatively impacts the gastrointestinal health of laying hens during their production cycle, which influences efficiency and profitability. Here, we describe the case of a commercial layer farm in Hungary that illustrates how preventive nutritional strategies using novel feed additives can offer a profitable alternative to antibiotics in cases of chicken disease.
The gastrointestinal health of laying hens during their production cycle has a significant influence on both efficiency and profitability. During peak egg production, hens typically cannot eat enough feed to cover their needs in terms of the protein and calcium. This stress can cause an imbalance in the gut microbiota, leading to pathogenic bacteria outbreaks. Escherichia coli and Clostridium perfringens infections are common in laying hens. In cases of severe mortality, treating the birds with antibiotics would be expected.
However, antibiotics come with hidden costs, since eggs produced during the antibiotic treatment and the withdrawal period cannot be sold for consumption. In addition, misuse of antibiotics –e.g. at a too low dosage or for a too short period— can contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria pose a threat to human and animal health, and can raise the cost of treatment. The case of a commercial layer farm in Hungary illustrates how preventive nutritional strategies using novel feed additives can offer a profitable alternative to antibiotics.
A commercial layer farm in Hungary experienced a sudden increase in mortality, strong diarrhea and a steep production decline in one barn (23,500 Lohmann Brown Classic layer hens; age: 40 weeks) from one day to the next after peak production, as shown in Figure 1.
At first, a broken drinking water system was suspected. However, the water system was checked and proved to be functioning normally. The diarrhea indicated a gut health challenge, though the exact etiology of the disease was not known. Tissue and digesta samples were taken and sent to laboratory for analysis, though receiving results would take two weeks.
Because of the high mortality, the farm manager had to make a fast decision. He chose to apply Biotronic® Top liquid via drinking water (1.5 L/1000 L of water) immediately. The water application was selected because it could be applied on farm and more quickly than via the feed, which at this farm was delivered weekly.
Biotronic® Top Liquid is an acid-based liquid product for pathogen control which contains the innovative Biomin® Permeabilizing Complex and a blend of organic acids. The Biomin® Permeabilizing Complex is able to weaken the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria, making them susceptible to the antimicrobial effects of the other active ingredients.
Within two days, the incidence of diarrhea and mortality had decreased (Figure 1). On the fourth day of the application, the diarrhea disappeared completely. After five days, mortality returned to normal levels.
With the mortality reduced to a normal level, the farm was still facing a drop in egg production. To overcome this loss, Digestarom® P.E.P. sol, a liquid phytogenic additive based on a synergistic blend of oregano, anise and citrus essential oils, was applied via the drinking water (30 mL/1000 L of water) for six consecutive days. On the second day of the Digestarom® P.E.P. sol application, egg production started to improve.
The ingredients in Digestarom® P.E.P. sol have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and appetizing effects. The synergistic blend helps to modulates gut microbiota, offers further relief from intestinal stress, and supports digestibility. After 3 weeks, egg production had fully recovered.
Why this combination worked on this farm
Two weeks after the initial outbreak, the laboratory results revealed that two bacterial strains, E. coli and C. perfingens, were isolated from the digesta and the liver tissue samples. The former is Gram-negative; the latter: Gram-positive. Organic acids and phytogenic feed additives have been accepted as an efficient tool to prevent and control disease proliferation in poultry.
Why it was more profitable than antibiotics
The laboratory results later also showed that the bacteria identified were resistant to 9 out of 11 antibiotics tested. Considering the situation and the antibiotic resistance of the isolated bacteria in this specific case, enrofloxacin would have been probably the best possible antibiotic-based solution.
An economical comparison between the cost of the antibiotic plus losses due to unsaleable eggs and the preventive strategy using the BIOMIN solution shows that the later would have been the more profitable option. At an average market price of €0.076/egg, the combination of Biotronic® and Digestarom® resulted in a net income of €0.63/bird, with a return on investment of 19:1 (Figure 3).
|Egg price* = €0.076/egg||Enrofloxacin**||Biomin® solution|
|Revenue from sales||€||15,800.46||15,800.46|
|Revenue – total cost||€||9,125.17||15,465.28|
|Net income per bird||€/bird||0.63|
|Return on investment||18.92|
Even with good management, bacterial infections stemming from the imbalance of the gut microbiota can cause production losses in layers. Preventive nutrition strategies that support gut performance can offer a cost effective alternative to antibiotic application, particularly around peak production. In fact, unsaleable eggs and the challenge of drug-resistant bacteria can make antibiotic application more expensive than non-antibiotic alternatives. The combination of Biotronic® and Digestarom® can be of particular interest to producers who want to prevent their birds form the pathogenic bacterial burden during the production period.