The antibiotics debate is going beyond the discipline of providing the correct ingredients in swine diets – so much is clear for feed additives manufacturer Biomin. The company hosted an event to solve the antibiotic-free production puzzle and invited many non-nutrition speakers to jointly investigate approaches.
The event, held on November 21-23, drew approximately 250 visitors from at least 27 countries worldwide to Vienna, Austria.
As is known, Europe has taken a leading role worldwide in reducing the use of antibiotics, with the banning of antibiotics as growth promoters and several countries now being successful in further antibiotics reduction, predominantly by actively reducing preventive use. How do they do it, what obstacles do they overcome and which ideas from other disciplines within the pig business can be found – other than using feed additives?
Dr Mark Beghian, owner of Italian company Unitec, specialises in biosecurity issues and had a clear message for his audience: if we want to substantially reduce antibiotic usage, it’s time to re-think how we do animal production.
He pointed out various reasons why:
Quite nicely, he closed off his presentation with a series of practical recommendations, e.g. that farmers disinfect using a good detergent; that pigs need clear water from clean nipples; footdips should never be optional; don’t create overcrowded pig pens; and always disinfect hands before touching the pigs.
Veterinarian Ferdinand Entenfeller then mounted the stage with another practical story on do’s and don’ts when running a swine farm – health management is the key in his opinion. He presented a long list of management things that could receive attention in order to improve the general conditions for pigs – thus lowering the need for antibiotics as simply fewer pigs have health problems.
Below is just a few of the recommendations he gave:
Well-known speaker Prof Paolo Martelli, Parma University, Italy, and also president of the European College for Porcine Health Management (ECPHM), said that antibiotics cannot be eliminated because we simply need to be able to treat sick animals. Nevertheless, he made his message crystal clear when he said: “Antibiotics cannot be an ‘umbrella’ protecting against lack of management, environment, biosecurity, welfare, etc.”
Zooming in on vaccination, he said that it is likely that protection against one disease also makes that other diseases stand fewer chances. After all, an individual is not so prone to co-infections. He then zoomed in on the concept of ‘herd immunity’, e.g. the more individuals in a group are vaccinated, the lower the chances are that a disease can spread.
He also touched on the question whether mycotoxins are capable of interfering with vaccination protocols and summed up various studies that have found evidence for that.
From a viewpoint of animal nutrition, Dr Francesc Molist, representing Schothorst Feed Research, the Netherlands, analysed the role of fibre, proteins and fat – and what thoughts are to be considered when formulating feed that will not require antibiotic interventions.
He said that in the Netherlands, where he is based, weaner pigs are usually allowed to have their gut developed to grow functional. He said they are not ‘pushed’ (by use of antibiotics) to perform immediately.
There can be rapidly fermentable fibres, more slowly fermentable or even inert. Dr Molist said it depends on the type of the animal, which one is most suitable. The rapid version may be ideal for sows, but for just-weaned piglets, whose gut is yet to mature, it may be better to use inert fibres. Using types of fibres for animals that are not yet physically ready may cause gut problems.
Similarly, he said, talking about proteins, it pays off to figure out the health status of the animals before deciding to add more lysine to the feed. When the animals are healthy, they can deal with more lysine, but in case they are not, other types of amino acids may be a better choice as lysine will hardly be digested in that case and may cause gut problems.
Using these outcomes, he presented guidelines what to think of when formulating feeds for pigs from 5 days prior to weaning to 5 days after weaning; from 5 to 15/20 days after weaning; and for the period thereafter. Each phase requires a new thinking.
Closing off the day, 3 speakers from hosting company Biomin briefly touched on possibilities how their products can play a role in further reducing antibiotics on-farm.