The poultry industry was described as a pathfinder for other sectors at a recent RUMA conference, where it was announced that the UK farmers had beat government targets for reducing antibiotic usage by two years. Antibiotics are a powerful and very useful tool in controlling disease in animals and humans. It is essential from our experience as vets that we continue to be able to use them where required to maintain animal health and welfare.
After five years of practical experience in using alternatives to antibiotics, St David’s Poultry Team set up a separate company, Applied Bacterial Control Ltd (ABC), that focuses on developing tailored made solutions combined with innovative products with the aim of improving animal health and productivity whilst reducing the farm’s overall use of antibiotics.
ABC is led Poultry Director, Richard Turner and Sophie Edenborough, formerly of Liquid Mineral Services (LMS), a company that specialises in the installation and maintenance of water treatment systems for poultry and dairy farms. With this expertise, ABC can provide advice on the most cost effective way of ensuring your animals have clean water as well as a range of practical solutions to improve gut health.
ABC advocates a holistic approach to welfare, which focuses on the bird’s gut health as a means of improving overall health, which then leads to fewer antibiotics being needed. ABC works with companies such as Biopoint, Olus, Kanters and ChemVet to develop innovative products. Combining acids, probiotics and essential oils in a correct way and evaluating husbandry protocols, based on the challenges of individual farms, yields results.
“As vets, we need to use our training and go back to the basics we all know, recognising early signs of abnormality. It is about better biosecurity, identifying and treating sickness earlier, and using everything in the toolkit to support animal health and prevent disease,” Richard Turner explains.
As part of an ABC study tour in October, delegates visited three poultry farms owned by Faccenda which are using probiotics, essential oils and natural acids to promote gut health.
Faccenda starts by treating the chicks in the hatchery with a probiotic gel. The active principle of the probiotic used in this instance, ZooLac, is a strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus, added to another probiotic Biacton. These probiotics, produced by ChemVet, are designed to create a protective barrier along the gut wall that inhibits pathogens’ ability to invade the gut, while stimulating the gut’s good bacteria. They also product large amounts of lactic acid which helps in the initial development of the gut microbiome.
At Faccenda’s Silverstone site, the group looked at the full acidification system using the LMS acids which are a mixture of short chained fatty acids (SCFA) designed to match the acidity and mineral characteristics of the water on the farm and drop the water pH to around pH5 to hold the acids in their undissociated form. The water is then chlorinated to control biofilm. The system therefore both cleans the drinker lines which is becoming more recognised as a requirement in all farm species, and delivers undissociated short chain fatty acids to the lower intestine. In the lower intestine, the bacteria, such as E. coli, campylobacter and some clostridial species, which prefer an alkaline environment, take the acid into the bacterial cell and this tends to acidify them which reduces their ability to grow. The SCFA are also used by acid loving bacteria to grow in a positive way. So in effect you are feeding the microbiome and promoting the positive bacteria.
Faccenda also uses a range of essential oils. Some have effects on the bacteria, such as oregano type mixtures, whilst others are effective also at moderating the effects of coccidia. Within the company there is also ongoing trials on using in feed essential oil mixtures to control coccidiosis.
“Over the past 18 months we’ve reduced our antibiotic use by 70% while also lowering mortality rates, and this has been a valuable aspect of our improved performance,” explains Stuart Newlands, General Manager of the broiler division at Faccenda. “We are finishing birds 100g heavier and half a day earlier. Our pharmacy looks like Holland & Barrett, but it does work.” Mr Newlands said that they had gone back to the parents stock, and in some cases back to the grandparent stock, to find the right food bacteria to pass down to the chicks.
The aim of ABC is to make sure that the right combination of treatments is administered at the right time and it focuses on the looking at the whole picture and all the factors that are affecting an animal’s ill health. Understanding a bird’s surrounding can be key to understanding what makes a favourable or unfavourable environment for a good microflora to develop.
If you would like more information about ABC, visit www.appliedbacterialcontrol.com or contact Sophie Edenborough on 01939 555025.