FBA Issue 32: May / June 2010
 
Natural supplements & alternative feeds
  
Interview conducted by Eric J. BROOKS
 
 
Which countries have successfully transitioned away from AGPs?
 
I think the main bottom line is to maintain similar profitability as before AGPs were banned. This is a question of how to balance your animal performance and maintain good livestock health at the same time.
 
There are areas which have done the transition to banning AGPs with no negative impact such as Korea, Japan and Thailand, all of which appear to work. In some other areas, you probably need to take evaluate your livestock management system. That probably means going through a whole reorganization or reconsidering how to manage your housing systems, such as very open houses with poor ventilation, which makes it difficult to manage.
 
I think a lot of countries have quite high standard production facilities so they will be able to phase out AGPs but in the process, they will have to go through some changes. Change implies a risk and by taking such steps, you are getting out of your comfort zone.
 
How would you compare Korea and Japan's attitude in phasing out AGPs?
 
In Japan the approach is slightly modified, in that they still have AGPs but they combine them with non AGP additives. In Japan, consumers are more concerned than in other parts of Asia but too an extent, they also accept its use. On the other hand, in Korea, it was more marketing driven, that is, to define domestically produced niche meat products against imports.
 
Did the overuse of AGPs hide problems with mycotoxin contamination?
 
Maybe. Since the 1970s, livestock farmers have worked with AGPs, so they developed their feeding management strategy around that type of diet. It is possible that the impact of mycotoxins was less pronounced due to their use.
 
Are there any climate or geographical features unique to Asia which make feed quality more of an issue?
 
Large livestock farms do not have a problem but the large number of backyard farms does not make things easier, since the health stress on their animals is greater than what we see in EU conditions. Because of the climate, more livestock housings are open and that increases the probability of diseases coming in. In Asia, the number of people working on such farms and the risks they bring to animal health is also much higher than in EU
 
Why is the US more resistant to phasing out antibiotics than the EU? Can they phase out antibiotics?
 
I think the Americans can face phase out antibiotics. The response of the US is not unusual; it is actually the same as the initial response in Europe. The only difference is that the EU did it from a different values or approach. That is, the American approach is based on scientific fact whereas the EU's policy is being driven by risk management. That is, the Americans say, 'there is no proof' while the EU says, 'perhaps it is not proven but it is still high risk, so we will phase it out.'
 
Can plant extracts replace AGPs?
 
With regards to plant extracts, you have a lot of compounds that work on natural identical action and which have in vivo similar qualities to specific antibiotics.

If you compare trials with AGPs, they are at least similar and some even show better results. With the new challenges, we need to focus on other aspects.
 
On the whole, the transition away from AGPs has been very good. We've had challenges but they are not as strong as we first expected. We are now focusing on other aspects of what an additive should do compared to four or five years ago. There is now more of a focus on new value added frontiers.
 
Do you see the increasing reliance on DDGS creating issues?
 
It is difficult to say because in Europe, we had a real boom in DDGS usage after we had already phased antibiotics out of the diet; therefore, we have no basis of reference. At the beginning people were cautious because of the variations in DDGS quality. Now, producers realise that there is value in DDGS, so long as they can maintain consistent quality.
 
It is a learning curve for both the industry and ethanol makers. For example, when we started using cassava, the quality was terrible bit now we have learned how to include it up 25% to 30% in broiler diets.
 
In the long run, do you think we have to phase out AGPs due to the safety concerns they raise?
 
We need to phase out as much as possible the use of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals. At the very least, I think part of their misuse is coming from the misuse of antibiotics in humans. 
 
Therefore, I don't think we should put all the blame on our industry, as we are not the major cause of problems with antibiotics. I think the real issue is that of the image of our industry. In that respect, I think we do need to it in order to overcome consumers' concerns.  
 
 
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