November 22, 2017
Phileo: Top management is key to successful farming with reduced antibiotics
by Colin LEY
Farmers can produce pig and poultry meat without using antibiotics but not without committing to an increasingly sharp focus on livestock management, underpinned by the highest levels of biosecurity. This was the core message given to delegates during a specialist two-day symposium run by Phileo Lesaffre Animal Care in Rome in October.
Organised to address the challenge of how to achieve 'Antibiotic reduction in modern poultry and swine production', the symposium drew speakers and delegates from around the world to assess current progress in cutting antibiotic usage in relation to livestock production, while also looking at potential product and systems solutions for the future.
"We want to achieve a better understanding of where the world is going concerning antibiotics in agriculture, always being aware that, as an industry, we must go wherever the consumer want us to go," said Frédérique Clusel, General Manager, Phileo Lesaffre Animal Care. "More and more, that means striving for less antibiotic usage in livestock treatments, ideally reaching the point where we are working with no antibiotics at all in production, unless there is a need to treat infectious diseases.
"This has already led to a change of mind-set among producers, shifting the focus away from antibiotics as an accepted part of the production chain in favour of an increased emphasis on biosecurity, alongside the provision of the best possible living and farming conditions for livestock and an attention to animal health that is second to none."
Keynote speaker, Osler Desouzart, Brazil-based international consultant, followed a similar theme, summing up the challenge of the future with the comment that to progress strongly in reducing antibiotic usage, farmers will need to be committed to "biosecurity, biosecurity, biosecurity and please more biosecurity".
"Is it possible to produce livestock without antibiotics?" he asked. "The short answer is yes. We did it in the past, after all, although that was before the livestock industry became the global business that it is today.
"Nevertheless, changes being imposed on producers by new consumer values are constantly being met by corresponding progress in science. This includes the emergence of new knowledge on gut health, microflora, antioxidants, feed additives and efficiency enhancers, etc., all of which is presenting us with alternative and efficient solutions to meet our production needs, which were previously achieved partly through the use of antibiotics."
Every day, he added, science and technology uncovers new ways of coping with the world's ever-changing food demands, a fact which he urged delegates to view as presenting them and their companies with fresh opportunities, rather than seeing such demands as a threat. This was especially important, given that adapting production to a future of reduced antibiotics was no longer an 'optional' choice for the farming industry.
The fact that farmers are already having to cope with new production realities was highlighted by Carlo Lasagna, veterinary manager with the Martini Group in Italy. He gave delegates an insight into how his company is approaching the antibiotics challenge, beginning with the assertion that one of the first choices every farmer has to make when setting up a new pig or poultry unit is between livestock health and production levels.
"Every day, farmers and their vets have to decide how to balance production and health demands, always being conscious that often when you push production you may need to compromise on health," he said.
"It's important that we all grow together in addressing these two issues, striving not to have an imbalance in favour of one or the other. We need a clear picture of what's happening now, of course, in order to be able to achieve that correct balance."
Speakers and delegates alike were upbeat about the progress already made in terms of cutting the use of antibiotics in agriculture, with many expressing great optimism about the industry's ability to keep moving forward on the issue.
"In France today, for example, it's the farmers themselves who are seeking to be enabled to achieve production without antibiotics," said Gilles Langeoire, French swine nutrition consultant. "In the past, the pressure against antibiotics in agriculture came from consumers but now it's coming from farmers, which is definitely the best way.
"Antibiotics used as growth promoters, in fact, is already forgotten. The big step now is to increasingly produce food without the use of antibiotics in a therapeutic sense, even though that was often the easy and fast solution in the past, and the cheapest.
"There are new challenges now, including in relation to animal feed formulations, where there is a constant need to improve the digestibility of the diet. Certainly, companies which are able to successfully change their feed diets away from using antibiotics will definitely be noticed by farmers, especially if such diets also enable final production levels to remain the same."
There was also widespread acceptance at the symposium, however, that implementing a reduced antibiotic approach to livestock production and health isn't easy and was never going to be so.
"We can produce poultry meat without antibiotics," said Alain Riggi, global poultry manager, Phileo Lesaffre Animal Care, "but we cannot stop using antibiotics without also working on livestock management, feed quality, ventilation, biosecurity, vaccination and much more.
"As an animal care company, of course, we can assist farmers by providing them with new products, such as those which help to make birds more resistant to stress. When these same birds are also kept under good management conditions, then there will be fewer health problems for farmers to deal with less reason to consider the therapeutic need for antibiotics.
"It's a simple comment, of course, but prevention is always better than cure. For poultry businesses that include increasing the focus on establishing good gut health, addressing housing and ventilation issues and making sure chicks are extremely well managed during the critical early life period.
"Whenever a farmer asks me if our products can help him/her to replace antibiotics, I obviously reply 'yes' but with the added warning that such products must be applied alongside good farm management.
"Those who only follow a new product route to the future will not have success, no matter how good the product itself might be. It's when new products are aligned with all the other aspects of management, monitoring and everything else involved in good farming that success will follow."