Antibiotic-free animal feed production grows worldwide

The 2017 WATT Nutrition and Feed Survey reveals growing trend for antibiotic-free animal feed production.

Driven by globalization, regulation, social responsibility and consumer demand, what was once perhaps characterized as a regional issue — the move to reduce antibiotics from livestock production — continues to gain traction around the world. The shift has left many animal feed producers and formulators looking for feed additive solutions as the key to developing effective antibiotic replacement and elimination strategies, report respondents to WATT Global Media’s 2017 Nutrition & Feed survey.

The annual survey was conducted in early 2017 and includes the feedback of 364 participants from around the world:

  • Latin America, 32 percent
  • United States/Canada, 18 percent
  • Asia/Pacific, 17 percent
  • Europe, 15 percent
  • Africa, 14 percent
  • Middle East, 4 percent

More than half of participants were nutritionists, consultants and veterinarians, with the remaining portion of respondees comprised of operators, marketers and administrators.

Animal feed profitability outlook, challenges

For seven years, survey respondents have been asked to gauge the market and offer their feelings about prospective profitability for the year ahead. In 2017, 38 percent of participants cite negative or deteriorating profits. In contrast, 40 percent of 2016 respondents reported improving profitability; this year, the number hovered around 31 percent.

Taking a closer to look to identify what may have spurred this trend, 80 percent of respondents strongly feel the cost of grain and/or exchange rate fluctuations was the top challenge facing their business.

Sixty-seven percent fear the effect of mycotoxins and other anti-nutritional factors on their 2017 profitability. Fifty-eight percent identified tight or deteriorating margins as their next major concern.

High energy costs related to feed transport and feed mill operations (57 percent) and the cost of feed additives (56 percent) were also noted as major concerns.

Antibiotic-free production surges

A sizable group of respondents feel the elimination of antibiotics due to regulation or consumer pressure (84 percent) will pose varying degrees of difficulty in 2017. Thirty-five percent of respondents are concerned about how — and if — they will be able to overcome the production losses after removing antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs).

Regarding rising costs, 42 percent of respondents feel antibiotic-free production will be the single greatest challenge to their feeding program. Slow-growing broilers (27 percent) and cage-free egg production (22 percent) also will cause problems, note survey participants.

This year, 14 percent of participants report 100 percent antibiotic-free animal feed production.  

Forty-three percent state their antibiotic-free feed production is somewhere between 99 and 50 percent. Compared with 2016, only 23 percent reported production in this range.

Also of interest, in 2016, 20 percent of respondees said none of their production was antibiotic free; in 2017, this number dropped to 11 percent.

When asked what best reflects their company’s nutritional and marketing stance related to antibiotic use, 59 percent of participants cite “prudent or judicious use,” 37 percent say “antibiotic free” and 16 percent tout “no antibiotics ever.”

Seventy percent of respondents report that their company is actively exploring, testing or using feed additives as antibiotic replacements or alternatives. But the move poses some unique challenges.

Forty-four percent of respondents report that, even if they find suitable feed formulation solutions, the adoption of proper on-farm management techniques to support animal health will be difficult to implement. They also are concerned about the additional feed additives costs (41 percent) and feel they need access to more research and education (37 percent).

Efficacy of feed additives for AGP replacement

Once the line of questioning became more specific, 20 percent of participants opted out because they did not have in-depth knowledge of their company’s feed formulations. The remaining 80 percent delved into the feed additives they have been using to eliminate or reduce antibiotic usage and their effects.

Probiotics were the most popular (46 percent) animal feed additive for replacing AGPs. Organic acids (43 percent) and enzymes (42 percent) also ranked high. However, in terms of efficacy, probiotics and organic acids nearly tied for effectiveness in attaining the desired effects. That’s not to say respondents knew about or had used the other additives types. For example, respondents cited they knew the least about the efficacy of phytogenic feed additives (20 percent) and prebiotics (17 percent).

Additive combinations offer solutions

Forty-four percent of survey participants report using feed additive combinations to achieve the desired results in their AGP replacement strategy.

According to 30 percent of respondents, the combination of organic acids and phytogenic feed additives produced the best synergistic effects. Next, 26 percent report finding positive effects combining medium-chain fatty acids and organic acids



The editors of WATT PoultryUSA, Industria Avicola, Poultry International and Feed International surveyed 364 people producing and using poultry feed worldwide. The survey sought to define the feeding and external trends shaping these businesses during the past 12 months. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish.

Participants included:

Nutritionists: 27 percent

Consultants: 16 percent

Veterinarians: 10 percent

General administration: 9 percent

Poultry farm owner/grower: 9 percent

Marketing and sales: 9 percent 

Live production management: 8 percent

Feed mill/plant operations: 5 percent

Quality control, purchasing agent, processing management/other: 7 percent

Responses from:

Latin America: 32 percent

United States/Canada: 18 percent

Asia/Pacific: 17 percent

Europe: 15 percent

Africa: 14 percent

Middle East: 4 percent


Feed manufacturing: 18 percent

Consultant/veterinarian/nutritionist: 17 percent

Broiler production: 17 percent

Manufacturing/distributing feed additives: 10 percent

Egg production: 9 percent

Breeder farm/hatchery: 8 percent

Premix manufacturing: 6 percent

Turkey/duck production: 6 percent

Poultry processing: 2 percent

Other: 7 percent

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