The saying “the best defense is a good offense” holds true even for livestock producers. Preventing losses in production and reducing treatment costs is a winning strategy, according to Dr. Angel Aguilar, technical service manager at Lallemand Animal Nutrition.
“We know one of the most important pillars for production and profitability is ensuring each animal has a good nutritional status,” Aguilar said. “This sets the stage for everything from vaccinations to breeding programs to work correctly.”
After getting the fundamentals right, producers can make their rations work even harder by adding proven probiotics and prebiotics for additional gains in health and productivity.
Probiotics and prebiotics both work by modulating the balance and activities of the gastrointestinal microbiota. The microbiota is a complex mixture of naturally occurring microorganisms in the animal’s gut that includes bacteria, protozoa and fungi. In modern livestock production, many challenges to growth and nutrition are caused by disruption of the intestinal environment.
“The intestinal tract is actually responsible for about 60% of the total immune system,” Aguilar said. “The gut sends signals to the rest of the body that promote antibody production. This systemic activity fuels a reaction, which can help fight stress or against disease challenges.”
Probiotics can affect digestion or balance the intestinal microbiota by favoring beneficial microbes. Probiotics can be either bacteria or yeast and usually must be alive when consumed to be effective. The results are entirely strain specific and can vary even between different strains in the same species of yeast, Aguilar noted.
For example, one strain of yeast — Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079 — has been shown to stimulate beneficial microflora, enhance lower-gut health and positively interact with the immune system of cattle. On the other hand, the strain S. cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 has been shown to improve the ruminal pH pattern in cattle.
The bacterial probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus BT-1386 has been shown to improve average daily gain in cattle and to minimize the ability for pathogenic bacteria like Escherichia coli O157:H7 to develop.
Probiotics and prebiotics can be used together. Prebiotics are non-viable microbial fractions. These products generally work by promoting the growth and activity of beneficial bacterial in the gut.
For example, the yeast cell wall of S. cerevisiae can be isolated and used in livestock feeds. A specific strain of the yeast and its cell wall contain high levels of mannan oligosaccharides, which help stimulate an increased immune response.
“High-quality manufacturing processes are critical to ensuring prebiotics and probiotics work as intended,” Aguilar said. “Strain selection and careful handling help guarantee products are ready to work. Together, prebiotics and probiotics can help put challenges to productivity and profitability on the defensive.”