Antibiotic / Probiotic Trends and Transitions in the Poultry Industry

By Scott Gillingham and published by The Alberta Agriculture, Food And Rural Development Department - Antibiotics have been available in the Poultry Industry and have played a major role in the health and growth of our industry. However in recent years, antibiotics especially therapeutic have not been a major player in most poultry company protocols or programs.
calendar icon 13 November 2006
clock icon 6 minute read
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

There seems to be a shift and emphasis on management and preventive disease programs beginning from the top of the breeder pyramid (Primary Breeders). Our focus in prevention deals with management. Emphasis is on the FLAWSS (food, light, air, water, space, and sanitation). Inclusion of Normal Avian Gut Floras, organic acids and specific vitamins/minerals combinations are structured into programs to enhance immunocompetency and set up natural barriers to infections. The comments in this document will focus on poultry and trends in our industry today.

Antibiotic Usage

A. Feed (seldom used today because...)

1. Timing in a feeding program is important.
2. Most diseases are viral precipitated.
3. Nipple drinkers - less bird to bird transmission of disease (broilers).
4. Genetics-much of the mortality is physiological caused rather than disease related.
5. Lack of response to cheap available antibiotics (resistance).
6. Lack of combination clearances.
7. Removal of effective drugs from the market.
8. Impaired immune system.
9. Withdrawal times.
10. Cost benefit:
  1. To therapeutically medicate all broilers in the United States from November through to March would cost 32 million US or 2.2 cents per pound (Holder 1995).
B. Water - preferred and most common route for administration of chemotherapeutic agent however,

1. Cost twice as expensive as feed medication.
2. Inconsistency of administration:
  1. Equipment - medication
  2. Grower - unreliable
  3. Water quality - drinker problem
  4. Water line management - occluded, plugged, dirty.
3. Considerations needed:
  1. Continual verses pulse medicating.
  2. ppm dosing verses the concept on milligrams of units dosed per kilogram of body weight on the floor.
C. Injections -

1. Used in day old chicks and poults.
2. Prevent low grade bacterial injections from hatchery and breeder flock tochick/poult
3. Interference with Mareks vaccination.
4. Cost benefit.
5. Healthy chick/poult, healthy end product.

Normal avian gut flora usage
New terminology - normal Avian Gut Flora replaces competitive exclusion:

1. According to the World Health Organization, NAGF is an undefined preparation of live obligate and facultatively anaerobic bacteria originating from normal, healthy, adult individuals from an avian species which is free from specific pathogenic microorganisms and is quality controlled.
2. Probiotics are defined by the WHO as preparations of only one or a few strains of microorganisms, the primary purpose of which is to improve animal performance.

What we know about undefined/defined NAGF:
  • Undefined culture means not all of the bacteria have or can be identified.
  • Defined culture means all of the bacteria in the product are known (as many as 56 strains are contained in some cultures).
  • Normal gut microflora has been shown to have a protective influence against invasion by salmonella and also pathogenic strains of E.coli and clostridia.
  • Undefined NGF cultures, derived from chicken intestinal flora, consistently protected chicks and poults against challenges with up to 1 million colony forming units (cells) of different serotypes of salmonella (Stavric 1993).
  • Mature birds infected with several species of salmonella, treated with antibiotics, followed with undefined NGF, have been shown to be protected (Mead 1991)
  • Undefined cultures derived from adult chicken microflora have proven to be more effective than defined cultures (1995).
  • Many of the chicken-derived defined mixtures fail to protect turkey poults (Mead, Humbert & Impey, 1985).
  • Humbert found the effectiveness of NGF treatments are not as effective in situations where hygienic measures were not strictly followed, therefore, the gut flora can be overwhelmed by a very high challenge.
  • The Mead Method is the only standardized protocol internationally recognized for testing the efficacy of NGF products (S. kedougou challenge).
Current thoughts on Administration of NAGF products -
1. NAGF treatment is normally given to newly hatched chicks or turkey poults as soon as possible after hatch, in the hatchery or on the farm.
  1. hatchery application in the hatcher
  2. coarse spray cabinet
  3. eye spray/eye drop
  4. gel delivery method
  5. Farm application
  6. coarse spray
  7. drinking water
2. Benefits acquired by use of NAGF:
  1. Although the concept was originally designed to control Salmonella infections, it has been shown experimentally that NAGF treatment also protects chicks against,
    1. pathogenic E.coli.
    2. reduces Clostridium perfringens which is one of the causative factors in necrotic enteritis.
  2. Claims have also been made that NAGF treatment enhances the growth and lowers the mortality of birds,
    1. improvement in the efficiency of feed utilization in broiler flocks,
    2. improvement in bird performances in terms of higher body weight, better feed consumption and lower feed conversion,
    3. improvement of litter quality impacting on hatching egg quality.
Programs for NAGF for the present and into the future-
1. Preventive programs:
  1. day one
  2. periods of stress (beak trimming, vaccination, moving)
  3. transfer to production barn
  4. molting
2. Therapeutic region:
  1. post antibiotic treatment; preferably 48 hours and 72 hours post treatment.

We have heard a lot of information about antibiotics, antibiotic sensitivity, theory and interpretation. All of this is purely academic if we do not roll up our sleeves and get the foundation fixed. The industry will continue to search for alternations to drug use, preventive methods, normal gut floras, and improvement in genetic stocks, but all these doctorals can not obviate the legitimate need for a good therapeutic agent. We must work in cooperation with agencies to help them become more knowledgeable on the industry and their allied industries to succeed. We need to form alliances with our poultry industry to work to our common goal of pathogen and vector control towards food safety.

Scott Gillingham, BSC DVM Diploma ACPV
Bayer Canada
Agriculture Division
R.R. #6
Guelph, ON

October 2006

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