The microbiome is susceptible to variable microbial loads in feed. Decreasing microbial loads in feed leads to changes in the makeup of the microbiome which are associated with lower mortality and decreased eggshell contamination in broiler breeders with a significant improvement in chick quality. Suggesting that it may be challenging for birds to maintain a balanced microbiome with high feed microbial loads.
The gastrointestinal tract is one of the main points of pathogen entry and the nutrient source to achieve production goals. Enteric diseases and intestinal microbiome imbalance change the intestinal tissues from absorption to defensive mode, causing inflammation and disrupting nutrient extraction, which negatively impacts performance and productivity. Although a considerable amount of time and resources are devoted to intestinal health in terms of management changes, vaccination and additive use, the impact of reducing microbial loads in animal feed is an important tool to keep healthy and successful flocks.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FEED: A KEY FACTOR IN ANIMAL HEALTH AND PERFORMANCE
Being the highest-cost element of poultry production, the balance between feed quality and cost presents a constant challenge. Special attention is usually paid to feed contamination with pathogens of animal and human importance such as mycotoxin-producing fungus and Salmonella, which can thrive and multiply in feed and feed ingredients. Recent data suggests that total feed microbial load should be assessed since reduced feed microbial loads may positively impact health and production traits.
The microbiome is susceptible to variable microbial loads in feed. Decreasing microbial loads in feed leads to changes in the makeup of the microbiome which are associated with lower mortality and decreased eggshell contamination in broiler breeders with a significant improvement in chick quality. Suggesting that it may be challenging for birds to maintain a balanced microbiome with high feed microbial loads. Additionally, it has been speculated that decreasing feed microbial contamination may facilitate the efficacy of probiotics that would normally have to fight the existing flora to achieve the displacement of pathogens in the intestinal environment. Feed-source pathogens have a direct line to the gut and, depending on the age, management conditions, and prevalence, can displace the natural microbiota, colonize the gut, and cause infection. Disruption of the microbiome by feed-source pathogens triggers the immune system and deviates energy from growth to survival.
Microbiome populations are variable and can shift by necessity or in response to enteric stress, dietary changes, environment, age and many other factors. Populations of undesirable microbes can exist within the microbiome, and shifts can occur due to the introduction of new microbial populations. In these situations, pathogens have the opportunity to colonize.
In a healthy gut, commensal bacteria can outcompete pathogens for resources and block pathogen colonization through competitive exclusion. However, when commensal bacteria are not well established, pathogens can easily disrupt them, especially in young birds. Early pathogen colonization of a juvenile gut can have lifetime repercussions on bird performance, preventing them from achieving their genetic potential.
A prime example? Clostridium perfringens, a natural inhabitant of the poultry gut, is linked to Necrotic Enteritis (NE), which can result in elevated mortality, poorer feed conversion and body weight reductions ranging from 10% to 20%.
In the past year, Anitox has collaborated with notable research organizations to conduct trials evaluating the impact reduced feed microbial loads have on poultry performance. One of these trials, a necrotic enteritis challenge model, showed that feeding broilers sanitized feed with lower microbial loads throughout their lifecycle supports growth and feed conversion while also reducing mortality in the face of a Clostridium perfringens challenge.
Understanding the causes and impact of microbial variation within different batches of feed is crucial to appreciate the potential impact on gut health and it is important to account for the ability of broilers to overcome each episode of enteritis.
Effective feed pathogen control programs address specific risks and consider factors such as the age and gut integrity of birds and the risk associated with ingredients in the feed. Feed sanitation effectively reduces feed microbial loads and pathogen prevalence.
FEED MICROBIAL QUALITY: UNDERSTANDING THE RISKS AND CHALLENGES
Feed contamination can occur at any stage of the production process, from the sourcing of raw materials to the storage and transport of finished feed. Indicator organisms such as enterobacteria and Salmonella prevalence are typically utilized to evaluate feed’s microbial quality.
One of the most researched feed-source pathogens is Salmonella as it is a significant pathogen for both animal and human health. It is well documented that this pathogen can be present in raw materials, finished feed, and processing equipment, leading to severe consequences such as product recalls and financial losses. Contemporary Salmonella isolates have gained the ability to thrive under feed mill conditions and live production processes can create perfect conditions for pathogen survival. Feed milling generates heat and moisture that promotes microbial growth, and facilitates contamination of feed mill machinery, trucks, and other areas associated with feed production, leading to feed contamination and repeated exposure of farms and flocks to feed-source pathogens.
IMPLEMENTING FEED SANITATION TO OPTIMIZE ANIMAL HEALTH AND PERFORMANCE
Producing high-quality animal feed relies on the use of good-quality raw materials and effective feed pathogen control strategies. Contamination levels of raw materials vary and understanding the microbial load at various stages of feed production is crucial to producing high-quality, cleaner feed.
Feed sanitizers, such as Termin-8® and Finio®, can reduce feed microbial loads and provide long-term protection against recontamination. Decreasing microbial loads can help reduce pathogen prevalence in feed, generate improvements in bird health and performance, and provide a cost-effective food safety and poultry performance strategy for producers.
About Dr. Enrique Montiel
Veterinarian, Dr. Enrique Montiel has more than 25 years global poultry and animal health experience. A Master of Science in avian pathology and immunology and a Ph.D. in poultry science, he is a leading authority on the influence of feeding methods on immune responses in poultry. As Global Director of Nutrition and Live Production at Anitox, Dr. Montiel supports global understanding of feed as a fomite for performance-limiting pathogens including Salmonella and viruses, and works closely with the world’s leading producers to prevent feed-source pathogens entering live production.