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Understand antibiotic-alternative feed additives first

Livestock producers should identify the root of any health problems their animals face before selecting an AGP alternative.


Livestock producers need to understand how specific feed additives work when used in place of antibiotic growth promoters (AGP) to make most effective use of the AGP alternatives, agreed all three panelists during the Feed Strategy Roundtable: Antibiotic growth promoters: Feed additive alternatives and replacement strategies, sponsored by Provimi, at IPPE 2018. Additionally, livestock producers should identify the root of any health problems their animals face before selecting an AGP alternative.

The panelists top tips for successful AGP-alternative feed additives use:

  • “Diagnose what are the issues then try to understanding the mode of actions of the products you want to consider.” – Maarten De Gussem, DVM, director of Vetworks and poultry nutrition consultant.
  • “Look at the source of the issue and the mode of action that would solve it. Not just throwing things at it and hoping something sticks.” – Raj Murugesan, PhD, technical director at BIOMIN.
  • “Understand what you're really trying to accomplish by adding something to the feed.” – Randy Mitchell, PhD, vice president of technical services for Perdue Farms.

First steps in feed additive selection

Selecting an AGP alternative feed additive starts with conducting analysis and properly diagnosing the situation on the farm, said De Gussem.

“Unfortunately, we still have some very rudimentary methods that we have to use in order to do that,” he said. “For example with coccidiosis, we still have to do lesion scoring. It all starts with, understanding what's your issues. So really that's where you have to invest most of your time. Once you have done that you can try to find where do I have support in my strategy to cope with those issues.”

Observing the situation may reveal that your program is missing some issues, he said. For example, mycotoxin control might not be good enough. Once livestock producers have noted their weaknesses, then they can target those problems much more effectively and decide what kind of feed additives could lead to a solution.

Communication becomes crucial at this stage. Managers, nutritionists, veterinarians and plant managers have to know what feed additives the others are using.

“After diagnosis, make a complete list of everything that is done to support vet health,” he said. “Sometimes you’re really surprised that they don’t know what each other is doing.”

A lack of communication can lead to doubling up on the same treatment, he warned. For example, one may add butyric acid to the water, while another adds the chemical to feed.  That ends up being a waste of money that could be better spent addressing a health issue by other means.

Address causes of livestock health issues with feed additives

“We have to address the root cause, the predisposing factor,” said Murugesan. “If you are using multiple additives for the same purpose, we need to understand why we are using those. Without that, we are just addressing the symptoms and not the root cause.”

Indeed, using multiple feed additives to address one problem may result in missing another threat, he said. For example, treating only a supposed coccidiosis infection could allow a mycotoxin issue to fester unnoticed.

Ultimately, livestock producers benefit from understanding the health issues their herds or flocks face, and using appropriate AGP-replacement feed additives. 

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