09 June 2022 – With animal agriculture moving away from the prophylactic use of antibiotics in production to curb antimicrobial resistance, it has opened the door for alternatives strategies that can meet the challenge of securing animal health and productivity and ensure the continued efficiency and profitability of operations.
Supporting gut integrity has become one of the leading approaches to filling the vacuum left by antibiotics and steering animal production away from their use. The main idea here being that by maintaining the wellbeing of the vast system of micro-organisms that make up the microbiome, animals are able to better digest and utilise the nutrients in their feed, which should translate into them being healthier and performing better.
To support its customers in effectively employing the microbiome to realise their antibiotic-free production efforts and fight antimicrobial resistance (AMR), AB Vista has committed itself to delivering gut health solutions that modulate this system and stimulate immunity. It has made good on this promise with its recent distribution partnership with Avivagen, makers of the carotene-oxygen copolymers product, OxC-Beta, and the introduction of the world’s first “stimbiotic” product, Signis, in 2020.
In today’s Industry Perspectives, AB Vista Managing Director, Juan Ignacio Fernández takes Feedinfo through the science behind OxC-Beta, explaining how the oxidation of beta carotene can benefit gut integrity. We also look at the impacts that stimbiotics can have on the microbiome and how they can benefit animal health and performance.
[Feedinfo] Antibiotic use in animal nutrition has already fallen globally. So, is there really more work to be done here?
[Juan Ignacio Fernández] The industry and governments around the world have worked to reduce antibiotic usage, however, several countries still don’t have regulations in place to limit it. Moreover, in some markets we are seeing an increase in the use of antibiotics administered via drinking water; a therapeutic purpose.
In an ideal world, it would be great if industry could agree on a timeline, globally, to withdraw antibiotics as growth promoters, in a similar way to current activities to reduce the carbon footprint, so-called “Net Zero” production.
The industry also needs to continue to look for alternatives to replace these antibiotics and reduce their use to ‘only when necessary’. Of course, this involves the development of feed additives but, we cannot forget other areas such as management, welfare, quality control and, in the case of the feed industry, ingredients.
[Feedinfo] Do you think the importance of animal gut health in the antibiotic replacement story is well understood by the industry? Do you think more education should be done here?
[Juan Ignacio Fernández] Gut health is still a very grey area, at least for nutritionists. Part of the issue is that it is a holistic subject that cannot be simplified to one topic. Knowledge has been improving exponentially in the past decade, and analytical technologies are allowing us to better understand the interactions, for example, of microbiome and health.
We at AB Vista are exploring ways to stimulate the beneficial ‘bugs’ in the gut and in recent years we launched a “stimbiotic” to address this area. As more knowledge is generated, we need to disseminate and educate people. So yes, education will be a pivotal aspect in better addressing gut health and making decisions on which strategies to use.
[Feedinfo] So let’s look a little closer at stimbiotics. Are these related in any way to pro-, pre- and postbiotics? And how do they differ in action?
[Juan Ignacio Fernández] Stimbiotics are a new category of products that aim to stimulate the fibre fermenting bacteria in the hindgut, thereby yielding beneficial metabolites for the host and holding back the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria.
Our Signis product is the first that fits in this category. Stimbiotics differ from probiotics because of the mode of action. In fact, probiotics are effectively microorganisms supplemented to the animals with the aim of these outcompeting pathogens. Prebiotics are supplemented to feed and nurture the gut microbiota and can vary a lot in terms of composition and ease of use by the microbiota, which is why their inclusion rates in feed is usually high (kg/t) to boost efficacy. Postbiotics are the metabolites that microorganisms produce, and these are then supplemented to the animals to exert beneficial effects.
The use of a stimbiotic will stimulate fibre fermenting bacteria establishment thereby, producing postbiotics and outcompeting pathogens. With this strategy we are aiming for the host microbiome to use feed dietary fibre more effectively, and this is attained by boosting or training the bacteria to use this substrate more readily.
[Feedinfo] So what findings can you share on Signis’s impact on animal gut health, immunity and performance?
[Juan Ignacio Fernández] As much as fibre has a dilution effect due to its lower nutrient concentration and low digestibility, we noticed that by changing it characteristics we could stimulate a lower gut fibre fermentation. Thereby, improving gut health and animal performance. However, this impact was time dependable as we needed to stimulate the development of the gut microbiome. We aimed to provide ideal conditions for early establishment of bacteria related with fibre fermentation, and this process is complex since the task is not done by a single type of bacteria.
Since launching Signis in 2020, we have generated a good amount of information on the use of the product in conventional and challenged animals, which helped us to better determine the benefits in different conditions, animal categories, and so on. These benefits comprise not only performance improvements, but reduction of inflammation and improvement of immunity.
[Feedinfo] And what about in terms of feed efficiency? How can it help improve farmer profitability here?
[Juan Ignacio Fernández] In general the performance benefits will depend on the level of challenge we see on the animals. The more challenged the animal the more we see the benefits, and these are commonly perceived as improved feed efficiency or better weight gain.
Another way that customers can capitalise on the benefits would be by selecting the most cost-effective strategies to improve gut health. We often see that the use of Signis would exert similar benefits as the combined use of multiple separate feed additives (i.e., organic acids and enzyme cocktails). Lastly, we have a nutritional recommendation for the use of Signis.
[Feedinfo] Let’s chat about your recent collaboration with Avivagen. How did this partnership come about and how does it complement AB Vista’s AMR strategy?
[Juan Ignacio Fernández] As I said before, we cannot define ‘gut health’ as just one topic. We have been working a lot on the interaction between dietary fibre and the microbiome of the animals, which led to the development of Signis.
But that does not mean that you can achieve gut health only by stimulating the development of a fibre fermentable microbiome. On our search for other ways to support our customers and improve animal health, we identified Avivagen as important partners and OxC-Beta as a great addition to our portfolio of feed additives.
[Feedinfo] What is the science behind OxC-beta? What impact can the oxidation of beta carotene have on the microbiome? How does this support a healthy gut?
[Juan Ignacio Fernández] OxC-Beta brings a technology through its production process that leads to the oxidation of beta carotene into carotene-oxygen copolymers. This produces an immune modulation effect in animals that is totally different to feeding beta carotene or vitamin A.
This technology and its impact on animal health is a key part of the knowledge and background of Avivagen. The effects in animals have been proven and published for different species.
AB Vista is a scientific-based business that partners with companies with similar profiles to bring these benefits to the animal industry. Considering its strong scientific and fact-based background, which led to the development of OxC-Beta, we have found, in Avivagen, a highly suitable partner for this development.
[Feedinfo] What can you share with us on the product’s efficacy in terms of immunity of animals, growth performance and feed efficiency?
[Juan Ignacio Fernández] OxC-Beta has biological effects as it primes the innate immune system, increasing the surveillance of pathogens by increasing the sensitivity of sensors’ receptors. This allows for the increase of the initial response to these pathogens but, at the same time limits the intensity and duration of the immune responses, avoiding unnecessary nutrient and energy expenditure.
This is a different mode of action compared with other products that work by stimulating the activation of existing receptors. The effect of OxC-Beta and carotene-oxygen copolymers have been proven and published in several peer review scientific publications, with Avivagen researchers being key authors in several of these.
Animal research has also been extensively reported with improvements in animal performance, reduction of feed conversion ratios, improvement of antibody levels in colostrum and milk, and reduction of mastitis.
[Feedinfo] How are you supporting customers in understanding and correctly employing the use of these two innovations?
[Juan Ignacio Fernández] The association between innovative products, with a strong scientific background, linked with supporting services and expertise is vital to how AB Vista brings solutions and benefits to our customers.
To some extent, all our services relate to gut health, as a better feed formulation and the knowledge of the correct enzyme activity leads to better nutrient absorption, lower overload of nutrient in the lower gut and better performance and gut health.
Specifically in this area, we have developed the ability to evaluate the dietary fibre composition of ingredients and consequently, calculate the dietary fibre profile of the feed. Therefore, customers can evaluate the impact that feed can have on lower gut fermentation and the potential impact on the digestibility of other nutrients.
We have also been offering ruminant customers NIR (Near Infrared) calibration on a handheld device to evaluate nutrient digestibility through manure collection.
If we look into the future, we can see several panels that evaluate gut health available on the market. We are already working with these assays to monitor gut health and the impact of our products in a commercial application. This we can see developing, in the future, into a service to monitor animal gut health on a routine basis using scientifically proven assays and not only animal necropsy.
Published in association with AB Vista