While the demand for poultry raised without antibiotics continues to grow, poultry producers have been more reluctant to adapt to an antibiotic-free program because of the medical benefits that antibiotics provide.

However, the common denominator, is “good, effective, practical management of gut health,” said Chastity Pender, PhD, poultry technical manager, Biomin America. Pender spoke during a session held at the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE), held January 26 in Atlanta.

“Producers are looking for their animals to be healthy and to perform optimally, and until now, they have been achieving this through the use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) , antibiotics and ionophores,” said Pender.

“Removing antibiotics does come with legitimate concerns. These concerns include decreased performance and productivity of those animals, increased morbidity and mortality rates because of the disease, increased costs of management the health of those flocks and increased disease incidence. If you add all of this up, there is going to be a potential loss of profitability.”

The biggest health concerns, according to Pender, are coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis.

Natural feed additives have been gaining increased interest in this area, to help manage necrotic enteritis, she said.

Pender also suggested use of probitotics to promote beneficial bacteria, citing a study from partners at University of Ghent, where probiotic supplementation increased incidences of beneficial bacteria within the intestine.

Pender also advised limiting nutrient access to pathogens, which can be achieved with a switch to an all-vegetable diet.

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