Probiotics have always been a staple that would be added to animal feed for both, proper growth and nutrition. However, with advancement of technology, probiotics are being increasingly used in a much more advantageous manner. Probiotics, help to alter the functionality of the gastrointestinal environment of cattle thereby improving their health and increasing productivity.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics were initially meant to refer to certain growth enhancing substance produced by some protozoans. Today, however, this term is used to refer to a much broader classification of organisms. It can thus be defined as live micro-organisms which when administered under supervision and in adequate dosage, give rise to a health benefit in the host. Today there are many different types of probiotics used in animal feed. They can however be classified into:
- Bacterial or non bacterial: Today most of the probiotics used are bacteria. Some of the well-known and popular examples are Lactobacillus, Enterococcus etc. Non-bacterial probiotics include certain fungi and yeast, such as Aspergillus, Saccharomyces etc.
- Forms spores or not: While initially non spore forming bacteria were much more widely used, spore forming bacteria are much preferred due to their increased functionality.
- Multi-strained or single strained: All three types of probiotics are used like multi-strained or multi-species, single strained or single-species as well as a combination of the two.
- Allochthonous or Autochthonous: Probiotics not present in the gastrointestinal tract of the animals, such as yeast are known as allochthonous probiotics. And those that are present within it as its indigenous inhabitants, such as lactobacillus, are known as autochthonous probiotics. Today both are either used singly or in a combination.
Benefits of using probiotics
Probiotics in livestock feed have been shown to benefit the health of the animals in a number of ways:
- Growth improvement thereby making the livestock stronger and healthier,
- Mortality reduction thereby increasing the longevity of the animals,
- Feed conversion becomes much more efficient.
All this and much more is achieved by probiotics present inside the GIT or gastrointestinal tract of animals by:
- Bringing about an alteration in the intestinal flora,
- Enhancing the growth of non-pathogenic bacteria,
- Hydrogen peroxide and lactic acid formation,
- Suppressing the intestinal pathogen growth,
- Digestion enhancement,
- Proper utilisation of nutrients.
In ruminants, such as cows, yeast cultures have been known to stimulate forage intake by bringing about an increase in their fibre digestion rate. This automatically results in an improvement of body weight, yield of milk as well as content of milk fat immediately within 24 hours of the probiotics consumption. In fact probiotics in livestock feed have been seen to produce a positive result both in the health and better performance of all livestock including pig, poultry, beef etc.
Mechanism of probiotics
Probiotics work in many different ways. Some of the commonly accepted ways in which they work are:
- Complete exclusion: This, is defined as the ability of micro flora to form a protection against the establishment of harmful pathogens. Thus when certain beneficial micro-organisms or probiotics are added to animal feed, they compete for adhesion sites with the potentially harmful bacteria already present in the animal gut, thereby helping in reducing their number and almost eradicating them.
- Adhesion to the gut: Probiotics when supplied in adequate numbers adhere to the walls of the gastrointestinal tract of livestock thereby preventing colonisation by harmful microorganisms. This adhesion of probiotics also enables their colonisation thereby increasing their numbers and strengthening them further.
- Competition for nutrients: The presence of both probiotics and pathogens inside the gut results in a strong competition between the two thereby resulting in the suppression of the pathogens present. The probiotics also facilitate faster digestion because of their high fermentative activity thereby giving rise to an acidic environment. This environment is not conducive to the growth of the pathogens and they reduce in number.
- Neutralisation of toxins: Toxins production by potentially harmful pathogens is inhibited due to the release of certain substances by the probiotics such as organic acids, bacteriocins and antioxidants.
- Stimulation of the immune system: Probiotics in livestock feed have a tendency to act as a stimulus to the immune system thereby giving rise to a reaction which is detrimental to the growth of harmful pathogens. Probiotics also strengthen the immune system of the animal body thus making them healthier and more productive.
Probiotics available today in the markets contain a combination of many different microorganisms. While some are taken in the form of feed additives, there are other which are administered in the form of boluses, gels and pastes.
Our nutritional and technical team will be pleased to advise you on this. Contact us.