Written by Kevin B.H. Teh (DVM)
An animal’s body contains trillions of live bacteria. These microorganisms can be found in almost every part of the animal body, living on the skin, in the respiratory tract and in the gastrointestinal tract.
Many of these are located in the intestine. Intestinal bacteria make up an animal’s microbiome, or normal flora. The microbiome is unique to each individual and studies have shown it is determined from before birth. Research also suggests that the microbiome changes throughout an animal’s life based on their diet and exposure to different farm environment.
Better gut, better health
The microbes are so powerful that an imbalance in the body is related to numerous diseases. Maintaining the correct balance between these bacteria is necessary for optimal health. Age, genetics and diet may influence the composition of the bacteria in the animal’s body. An imbalance is called dysbiosis and this has possible links to diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, including necrotic enteritis in poultry.
The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”. Basically, probiotics are microorganisms that provide beneficial effects when an animal consumes them in the right amounts.
Probiotic is also commonly known as friendly, good or healthy bacteria. Not all probiotics are the same. Different strains of the bacteria have different effects.
Probiotics are typically measured by the amounts of bacteria in colony-forming units (CFUs). It can vary, with some commonly having a CFU of billions. There are many different types of probiotic to choose from. The best probiotics for an animal can depend on the strain of bacteria and how many bacteria the product contains.
It is important to feed probiotics in sufficient amounts. Feeding a sufficient amount of the right probiotic is important for achieving the desired effects. Generally, higher doses have been found to produce the best results in most studies.
Rebuild the healthy balance of bacteria in your livestock
When the wrong bacteria in the wrong place can cause problems, but the right bacteria in the right place can have benefits. The intestinal’ s lining can sometimes become damaged, which may lead to intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut.” This can allow molecules to get through into the bloodstream and cause inflammation or immune reactions.
Antibiotics may be overused in farming, but the reality is that they are needed for bacterial infections. While effective, these potent medicines can have some rather unpleasant side effects, including antibiotic resistance. The problem is that antibiotics can kill both bad and good bacteria.
This is where probiotics come in. Probiotics are live microorganisms that may be able to help support an animal’s general health and relieve intestinal issues. Feeding probiotics at the same time, however, can help repopulate an animal’s intestine with beneficial bacteria and ease any symptoms of gastrointestinal issues. Probiotics can be fed through drinking water and feed.
“A healthy outside starts from the inside” – Robert Urich
In recent years, the extensive research into probiotics and the microbiome leaves no doubt that these novel products can benefit some aspects of animal health. Probiotics promote a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria and have been linked to a wide range of health benefits. Feeding probiotics may help strengthen the immune system and help reduce the risk of infection and diseases.
With increasing concern about antibiotic resistance and the ban on subtherapeutic antibiotic usage in many countries, it has become important to find alternatives to antibiotic use in livestock production.
Manipulations of intestinal microbiome through dietary and managerial interventions have been used by livestock producers to enhance growth and reduce the incidence of disease. Studies suggest that feeding probiotic supplements may shift the balance of intestinal bacteria in a way that increases the body’s defenses against infections and boost immunity.
The use of probiotic can provide the livestock industry with an alternative management tool that has the potential to promote better intestinal health by managing the composition of the microbial population in the gastrointestinal tract, to protect livestock from infections with pathogenic bacteria and to decrease economic losses due to pathogens.