Feeding 8 billion people, limiting the sector's GHG emissions, and respecting animal welfare while adapting to the needs and changes in consumption patterns are the major challenges facing agriculture.
Future livestock production, shall we?
This requires that the animal production sector adapt and seek technical and innovative solutions to optimize the management of livestock. Today, antibiotic resistance is the most worrying issue in the animal sector, affecting both animal and human health. Reducing the use of antibiotics in livestock production has become a crucial objective shared by all stakeholders in the agricultural sector. What is important to remember is that it is possible to reduce drastically, or even eliminate antibiotics in animal production while achieving similar, or even better, performance by using functional additives such as probiotics.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living micro-organisms which are incorporated in animal feed as additives or supplements. These probiotics provide beneficial properties to the host, mainly by improving the intestinal health and zootechnical performances of the animals.
Probiotics market in animal nutrition
Probiotics are increasingly used to improve animal health and welfare, to increase productivity and meet the growing demand for high quality of food products. The probiotics market has been steadily evolving and growing for several years. It is expected to reach $7.3 billion, growing at a CAGR of 8.8% during 2021-2026. Europe is one of the most important regions in the animal nutrition probiotics market, with a market share of approximately 35%.
Risks of infections in livestock
Various factors can disturb the balance of the intestinal ecosystem and cause risks of pathogenic infections. Indeed, monogastric animals are the most threatened by these factors. In piglets, an increased frequency of diarrhea is often observed during the first weeks of post-weaning due to the transition phase of feeding and the change of environment (barn). For chickens, it is more a question of infections caused by the proliferation of the following pathogens: Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium and Eimeria. Instead of using antibiotics, probiotics are one of the alternative solutions that regulate the activity of pathogens and their consequences on the animal's health.
Probiotics: functional additives and alternatives to antibiotics
The potential role of probiotics lies in enriching and modifying the diet, the composition of the intestinal microbiota and strengthening the immune system. Indeed, probiotics can increase the population of beneficial microorganisms, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which then inhibit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms by secreting inhibitory substances (bacteriocins and/or organic acids).
Selection criteria for probiotics in animal nutrition
The properties and modes of action of the identified probiotics are specific to each strain. Among the micro-organisms used as probiotics, we distinguish mainly bacteria (such as Lactobacillus, Enterococcus, Pediococcus, Bacillus) and microscopic fungi (such as yeasts belonging to the genus Saccharomyces). Bacteria of the genus Bacillus are known for their production of various enzymes and antimicrobial substances. Moreover, their spores can survive in high temperatures as well as those of the food granulation.
The selection of such a strain or other is mainly based on its effectiveness and mode of action. It is considered that the advancement of biotechnology and applied research in this field are essential to identify the most effective probiotics.
Ecobiol & Fecinor: probiotics developed based on efficiency, stability, and safety criteria
In this regard, EVONIK, one of the main players in the animal feed industry, provides a range of probiotics that meet the needs of sustainability, animal health, profitability for farmers and product quality. Ecobiol® and Fecinor® are two types of probiotics dedicated to poultry and pig livestock respectively.
Ecobiol® is a probiotic designed for the management of the intestinal microbiota of poultry that can be used to stabilize performance during intestinal problems. It contains a fast-growing, naturally occurring strain known as Bacillus amyloliquefaciens CECT 5940. This bacterial strain has the inherent ability to produce lactic acid and influence the interactions between different bacterial populations. It is associated with the intestinal mucosa and tolerates gastric and biliary secretions.
It can also produce spores, which gives it the enormous advantage of surviving in different feed manufacturing conditions. In addition, Ecobiol® has proven its effectiveness in different livestock environments around the world, proving to be highly consistent in its ability to improve the health status of flocks and therefore its performance parameters.
On the other hand, Fecinor® is a feed additive for pigs. It is composed of a fast-growing natural strain: Enterococcus faecium CECT 4515. Fecinor® enhances intestinal health and provides beneficial effects to the host thanks to its ability to produce lactic acid. Without impacting animal health or productivity, Fecinor® promotes more sustainable production by reducing bacterial pathogens. It can help producers to solve quality, profitability, and sustainability issues by providing the basis for an efficient and high-quality product.
As a conclusion, much work remains to be done in the communication of probiotics to move the entire industry forward and ensure a sustainable and high-quality product for the consumer. This is our responsibility as a stakeholder in animal nutrition, providing you innovative solutions and working with suppliers involved in sustainability approach and able to offer high technical value.
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