10 November 2021 – With the use of zinc oxide (ZnO) as a medical veterinary product in pig production coming to an end in the EU next year and the matter also becoming more of a concern elsewhere in the world, the animal nutrition industry is presenting farmers with a number of nutritional solutions that can help address the gut health issues that piglets can experience during the crucial post weaning stage.
While some are only focused on creating the optimal intestinal environment with their solutions to maintain gut performance, Lallemand Animal Nutrition is expanding its focus to also include the role that a piglet’s external environment can play in this scenario.
This “inside and outside” approach makes use of some of the company’s already established probiotic and yeast derivative concepts but is also presenting a new way for pig producers to approach the biosecurity of piglet housing to further maintain piglet health and consequently reduce the need for antimicrobial strategies (which for the purposes of today’s discussion will refer to antibiotics and the pharmacological use of ZnO).
Here Feedinfo sits down with Lallemand Animal Nutrition’s General Manager, Yannig Le Treut, Product Manager for Swine Applications, David Saornil, and Monogastric Marketing and Technical Manager, Pierre Lebreton to find out what are some of the tools in this multi-prong plan of attack.
[Feedinfo] How successful do you think the feed industry’s approaches to reducing the reliance on antimicrobials in post-weaning piglet diets have been?
Yannig Le Treut
[Yannig Le Treut] In the 30 years that I have been in the industry I have seen a real shift taking place. If we look at countries where there was a real willingness to move away from antimicrobials, they went from 95% of medicated weaning feed to under 30% (including colistin).
In the past, antibiotics were administered at small doses in piglet feed, with the thinking being that a low DMI was safe. Today we know that small, continuous doses is a risk factor for the development of antibiotic resistance. Some feed mills have totally removed antimicrobials from their piglet feed, which we can see as a success. But how do you now make up for this void left by past solutions?
The answer is a multi-factor, global approach. For the swine industry this meant addressing three main touchpoints: 1) zootechnics and feed formulation (protein reduction…) 2) inputs and raw material quality (in terms of nutritive value, digestibility, and safety) and 3) the use of feed additives. These new trends, which I call ‘virtuous’, have led to the rise in probiotics in particular.
However, there is a financial limitation to the adoption of these new approaches. One would have expected the money spent on antimicrobials to have become available for investment into additives, formulation, or better quality raw materials. But this has not been the case. The market is not ready to invest the same budget it was spending on antimicrobials, which can make it difficult to get these alternative approaches accepted.
The industry could be more successful at reducing its reliance on antimicrobials, but it needs to have investment at a similar level to what was invested in these medications before. They need to accept the important short-term investment to secure long term benefits.
[Feedinfo] Where does Lallemand see room for improvement in this approach to antimicrobial resistance and how is it approaching things differently?
[Yannig Le Treut] In the early days of ZnO, it was used at very high doses because the thinking was that as soon as you stop using it the gut issues that were being prevented, like diarrheas, would pop back up. So, the doses were increased up to almost toxic levels. It is the same with antibiotics: when you stop you need a safety net. And that means long term investment in prevention through gut microbiota control, biosafety measures, etc.
Lallemand’s approach is based on managing the microbial ecosystems in and around the animals, placing more importance on farms’ biosecurity. We should consider the farm and production cycle as a whole, not only focus on the piglet’s diet. For example, breeding quality piglets starts with the mother. Sow management is an important key to success, because the sow’s gut microbiota influences the piglet’s up to post weaning. So, if we are talking about securing long term benefits, sow nutrition is part of the equation: to secure a healthy gut for long term health and performance. The environment of the animal plays an important role too, which means also considering biofilms and biosafety issues on farms.
When it comes to gut microbiota, we have long-standing experience in this area (our live yeast, LEVUCELL SB (Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. boulardii CNCM I-1079) was registered in the EU in 1995). And we keep innovating to keep up with market evolution/needs. For example, our solutions are compatible with today’s feed mill processes and can be applied in an increasing number of areas to help with concerns, from gut health to immune modulation. Based on this experience, we have also been able to develop solutions for specific physiological targets such as nutrient absorption in the small intestine, gut development in piglets, or immunity.
[Feedinfo] Please tell us more about this concept of using biofilms as part of a reduced antimicrobial production approach.
[Pierre Lebreton] How can we talk about protecting the piglet’s internal microbial ecosystem with no control over direct external contaminations? Positive biofilms look like the final piece of the global puzzle!
All surfaces of a building and its equipment are colonised by microorganisms, mostly in the form of biofilms. And despite huge improvements in biosecurity, and cleaning and disinfection, most of the time these critical bacterial populations remain active in the piglet’s environment. A new tool in the farm biosecurity toolbox is the positive biofilm concept. The idea is to apply beneficial bacteria that can form a positive biofilm along the farm surfaces just after disinfection and prior to the entry of new animals. By rapidly establishing a positive biofilm in the building cycle, it will leave less room for undesirable microorganisms to grow and securely finalise the overall “cleaning” process. Think of it as the last barrier of biosecurity or, even, the first step towards internal microbial control.
As with probiotics in the gut, it is about taking a virtuous approach to microbial ecosystems management vs. the ‘kill all’ approach with antimicrobials, such as chemical disinfectants.
[Feedinfo] In addition to this, how are you seeing your inactivated yeast and probiotic yeast concepts playing a role in this “in and around” approach to answering the overall objective to reduce the use of ZnO and antibiotics?
[David Saornil] When we have a closer look to what happens inside the piglet gut right after weaning, we realise that it is usually associated with dysbiosis, an unbalance of the microbial composition favouring the growth of bacteria that can alter the intestinal homeostasis. Actually, this is why pharmacological doses of ZnO and antibiotics have been applied in piglet feed for many years.
Yeast-based solutions are useful tools to help stabilise the internal microbial ecosystems through different and complementary ways. For example, for a few years now we have been working on the concept of Maternal Microbial Imprinting, studying the impact of probiotic application in sows on the piglets’ microbial profile even a few weeks after weaning and how we can use this as the starting point of the demedication strategy.
By more directly targeting the piglets, we were able to develop two complementary strategies to maintain the gut microbial ecosystem. One being that with the application of specific live yeast (LEVUCELL SB) we can help create the adequate microenvironment needed to protect the most sensitive commensal bacteria while enhancing the intestinal physiology. The other stems from a very exciting R&D journey we engaged in a few years ago which resulted in our YANG yeast derivative. This involved employing new tools such as Atomic Force Microscopy, which allowed us to characterise specific yeast strains for their binding properties to specific bacteria (E. coli for instance), while at the same time interacting with the immune system and, therefore, supporting the piglet’s natural defences.
[Feedinfo] When we last checked in with Lallemand, there was mention of exploring hydrolysed yeasts as animal health and performance nutritional tools. Are you also looking into their application in the management of post-weaning piglets under reduced antimicrobial conditions?
[David Saornil] As Yannig mentioned, the management of dietary protein composition in formulations is absolutely key when removing antimicrobials from the piglet feed, and in this regard, quantity and quality are of equal importance.
With the application of novel yeast protein products, we are looking into concepts that are directly related with gut health, taking into account when and where those amino acids are absorbed within the small intestine and their relation with the intestinal epithelium morphology. Hydrolysed yeast solutions, like our new YELA PROSECURE, also allow us to protect the microbial ecosystem with a different mode of action, in this case lowering the risk of proteolytic uncontrolled fermentations in the hindgut.
[Feedinfo] The adoption of reduced antimicrobial strategies is well documented in major global economies, like the EU, the US, and China. As a company with a worldwide presence, where else in the world are you seeing these strategies becoming of interest? And what are your plans to capitalise on this?
[Pierre Lebreton] Seeing as the World Health Organization has identified antimicrobial resistance as a main threat for human health in the coming 20 years, we can consider the move towards more responsible, antimicrobial free animal production as a worldwide trend. But from being aware of the situation to putting in place the necessary actions this can be more gradual depending on the country. Every country is probably doing its best, and dealing with a number of varying concerns, like not wanting to put too much pressure on a weak but critical animal production sector. Even in major global economies, this can be a gradual process and involve restrictions and applicative agendas that are very different.
Having been active early on not only in the antimicrobial challenge, but also in strategies to improve the situation with probiotic yeast, Lallemand Animal Nutrition has accumulated a lot of data and experiences and has been able to capitalise on that to build interconnected understandings, create our R&D and scientific-based approaches, and create products that deliver efficient solutions.
Reducing the reliance on antimicrobials means a fundamental change in mentality and approach; going from a curative one to a protective one, and from presenting simple, standalone solutions to ones that are complementary and facilitate a holistic approach. That is how we at Lallemand Animal Nutrition are approaching the issue and will continue to offer adapted solutions aimed at solving this situation.
Published in association with Lallemand Animal Nutrition