February 1, 2016


"Feed, seed and weed" at IPPE breakfast: poultry expert discusses antibiotic-free approach




Clinical associate professor at the Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center, University of Georgia, Dr. Stephen Collett, discussed how to manage microbiota through the 'feed, seed and weed' approach and the critical steps to take in controlling coccidiosis, histomoniasis and cochlosoma without antibiotics during Alltech's annual breakfast at the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) last Wednesday.

With 20 years of experience implementing antibiotic-free programmes in the United States and abroad, Collett shared his strategy for managing digestive health while maximising bird welfare, nutrient assimilation and performance during his presentation, "Antibiotics: The Cost--Public perception, trust and hospital-acquired infections. What are the alternatives?" 

Collett opened the seminar by discussing the importance of focusing on the lower intestinal tract. While upper intestinal integrity determines short term performance, the composition of the microbiota determines long term success. Since the industry is now being asked to move away from traditional controls, Collett said it is important to focus on what goes on in the hind gut or caecum.

"Our number one aim is to accelerate the flora from an immature flora to a mature system," Collett said. "The second thing we have to do is rehabilitate the health of the hind gut."

Collett's programme to rehabilitate and accelerate the evolution of the intestinal microbiota involves seeding the gut with favourable organisms, feeding the favourable organisms and weeding out the unfavourable organisms. In seeding the gut, production is aimed at controlling the parent flock flora, applying a probiotic and managing house flora. Collett recommends a host-adapted, resident probiotic that includes Lactobacillus and Enterococcus, as transient probiotics or "non-antibiotic antibiotics" are not part of the normal flora and can over time allow unfavourable organisms within that environment to become adaptable.

In the feeding phase, the goal is to feed the favourable flora and starve the unfavourable flora through acids and enzymes. Acids can either be continuously added or only during stress periods through feed or water. Finally, weeding involves selective exclusion through the use of essential oils, antimicrobials and attachment blockers of type-1 fimbriae, and competitive exclusion through community management.

When it comes to disease challenges such as coccidiosis, histomoniasis and cochlosoma, Collett recommends a combination essential oil product, and a type-1 fimbriae blocker, and he has seen the same results as when using a coccidial control product. Most recently, he has been working with a producer in Pennsylvania that has moved from high dependence on antibiotics to complete independence. The operation is now in the top 20% of the industry in terms of cost per pound of meat produced.

"Changing the paradigm of 60 years of antibiotic use is quite difficult. As a lone voice for some time, I tended to get pushed down," Collett said. "Development is quite slow, but what I've seen in the last year, the industry has picked up phenomenally. Very big companies are adding these technologies and starting to see good results."

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