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THE ANTIBIOTIC FREE MOVEMENT


Enhancing the nutritional value of feed
by Eloise Hillier-Richardson, Milling and Grain
In June this year Darren Parris and I visited Novus in St Charles, Missouri, to celebrate their 25-year
anniversary. Among the revelries (including a personal highlight of a Cardinals baseball match) we
were invited to some insightful talks at the Novus Media Jam. One of these talks specifically concerned the Antibiotic Free Movement or ABF, where the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics and
the many alternatives Novus offer were discussed.

he use of antibiotics in animal feed


was first approved in 1950 after it
was proven that they were effective
in reducing mortality and morbidity,
increasing feed utilisation, and
encouraging an increased growth rate.
Now, many experts are expressing
concerns that the sub-therapeutic
use of antibiotics, as opposed to
therapeutic or disease treating uses, is having an adverse effect
on the animals and are further reporting the development
of antimicrobial resistant bacteria - a state of affairs which
ultimately compromises treatment of human bacterial infections
(LM Gersema et al).
The Antibiotic Free Panel included Dr Mercedes VazquezAnon, Senior Director of Animal Nutrition and Facilities at
Novus, Dr Nasser Odetallah, Executive Manager for Global
Technology Services at Novus and Dr Bob Buresh, Technical
Manager of Poultry for North America at Novus. Amassing an
impressive 70 plus years in the animal feed industry, this panel
of experts offered an abundance of knowledge on the movement
away from antibiotics, and outlined Novus role.
All three panelists agreed that the movement away from
antibiotics would not be easy for many customers, citing cost and
psychological aspects - ie. the understanding that sub-therapeutic
antibiotic use is almost guaranteed to prevent disease whereas
less is known about the alternatives - as major aspects in the
reluctance to move towards an antibiotic free future. As a
result, Novus approach to create a culture of feed that
is less reliant on the use of antibiotics, they knew,
would have to centre upon the customer and
their needs.

Everything is focused around


customers

Customer focus is central to Novus


Triple S bottom line approach Solution, Service and Sustainability.
Our customers are currently
faced with the growing challenge of

38 | August 2016 - Milling and Grain

considering the implementation of the production of their animals


with reduced or removed antibiotics, said Dr Buresh. Each
customer, even each individual production unit, will experience
different challenges weve got to help them adapt to that.
He went on to say that the challenges faced by a Chicken
Producer in North Carolina will be different from those faced by
a Producer in Missouri, which will again be different from one in
Texas. Therefore, there was an obvious need to tailor alternatives
for antibiotics to each individuals requirements.
Reinforcing this emphasis on customer service, Dr Odetallah
broached the discussion from a more global perspective,
acknowledging that the concept of sub-therapeutic antibiotic use
and the ABF movement is an issue not only in the United States
of America, but must be addressed across the globe, pointing out
that issues which customers face in America are just an example
of what Novus expect to find in other parts of the world.
Dealing with the customers is important, he said. We [at
Novus] have really worked first hand with the customers; we
have done a lot of work with them just to show the importance of
the solutions to solve such problems. He stressed the importance
of dealing with customers on a face to face basis, saying they
have already sat down with producers in a couple of countries
around the world.

The antibiotic free panel;


left to right - Dr Nasser
Odetallah, Dr Mercedes
Vazquez-Anon and Dr
Bob Buresh

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We had a few customers sit together and discuss the
antibiotic treatment reduction and discuss what options we
have, what alternatives [we have] to that path and [asked]
why do they want to switch?
Of course, there is an element of risk and risk assessment
involved when a customer comes to making such a big
change. The panel alluded to a certain psychological aspect
that governs peoples thinking towards the unknown,
prompting uncertainty about the outcome of the alternatives.
They explained that in this instance they would help by
suggesting what the issue is and how to overcome it,
acknowledging that the customer needs to know youre
not there to simply sell but also help. Dr Odetallah
expanded: We come up with a solution that suits that
specific customer in that specific situation under certain
circumstances and that is how the expertise of the field work
together to provide the solutions. We have had incidents in
the past where we havent been able to help customers and
we even recommended solutions that we dont provide by
recommending different practices which would best suit their
production that is the value that we provide to the customer
and the same thing applies to the antibiotic free production.

BALANCE IS
EVERYTHING!

Improving agricultural and management practices

Novus have a vast selection of products available,


including methionine, organic trace minerals, feed enzymes
and eubiotic solutions. There are general standards that can
readily contribute to their success, starting with what Dr
Buresh cited as the three key areas: management, animal
health, and nutrition. Dr Vazquez-Anon agreed that there
is not a simple solution for the removal of antibiotics,
and highlighted the necessity of multi-factoral and multidisciplinary solutions, where environmental factors, but
also ingredient quality, nutrition and improving the animals
immune system play an important role in
the facilitation of going antibiotic free.
What might work in one place may not
work in another place until we realise that
we need multifactorial, multidisciplinary
solutions that would really encompass
management, nutrition and health, she
said.

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Nutrition and ingredient
quality

The challenge of prepping animals for optimal performance


without antibiotics, Dr Buresh reasoned, begins with improving
agricultural practices and overall flock and herd management, as
he believes upon implementing ABF that nursery and brooding
phases will be initially hit the hardest. He told us, the customers
are dedicating more attention and resources to overall flock
and herd management, whether its pigs or cows or chickens or
turkeys and initially theyre focusing on the brooding phase in
chickens, the nursery phase in piglets - those are the phases that
will be initially hit hard by either a reduction or a removal of
antibiotics.
It is evident that for ABF to become a reality, conditions need
to be created which allow antibiotics to be removed. For this to
happen, the Novus team encouraged changes in environmental
conditions and animal density, as well as increased downtime
between batches and flocks and improved litter management.
This is a simple tool, but we have kind of forgotten it, Dr
Buresh said, citing how they have found that in the chicken
business [management] is key, the downtime between flocks is
critical in maintaining health and performance of the flock.
When Dr Buresh first began his career in this field, he told
us antibiotics were becoming more prevalent and their use
encouraged; but now, he said, there are a lot of things that have
come full cycle here; basic production management practices that
are going to become more and more important.
This renewed focus on optimal animal health is key as
Producers transition away from traditional antibiotic use. It
points to disease prevention through more effective vaccination
programmes and the use of pharmaceutical alternatives that
support animal health and aid with this transition. To cope with
the movement away from antibiotics, our producers are going to
be continually looking for an alternative. There is a line of people
at their door offering the tools to help them through this transition
period, away from antibiotics, and thats what we are doing here
at Novus. We are working on the development of pharmaceutical
alternatives; with my team we are not necessarily trying to
replace antibiotics but we are trying to create the conditions that
allow for antibiotics to be removed for optimal performance of
the animal. Ultimately we are looking at preparing the animal
better for optimal performance without the use of antibiotics, Dr
Buresh said.
40 | August 2016 - Milling and Grain

The concept of nutrition and the


impact it has on an animals health
and wellbeing was a familiar area
for all panelists, as this is their
main area of expertise. Dr VazquezAnon said of the three key areas of
management, nutrition and health,
the ones that we can do something
about are nutrition and health, so
those are the areas that we have
been focusing our research on.
Where quality nutrition and quality
feed ingredients have always been
important, in the wake of antibiotics
the panel put forward the argument
that greater emphasis must be put
on nutrition and ingredient quality
to produce healthy and happy
animals: Feed quality, whether it
be ingredient quality, has always
been important but it is about to become even more important
as you remove the antibiotics and it may even involve selection,
removing specific ingredients, and removing specific suppliers if
they dont meet certain quality standards said Dr Buresh.
Improved ingredient quality and better nutrition have a direct
effect on the gut health of an animal, an area where a vast
majority of infections take hold, especially in the early stages
of life. One of our key areas is our protease enzyme and its
ability to enhance the nutrient digestibility of a variety of feed
ingredients, and thats an area we are really working on, the
panel revealed.
They admitted, however, that one of the hardest tasks for
customers is trying to decide which alternative path to take:
There is a line of people out the door ready to approach them
with things like enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, organic acids,
phytogenics, a lot of the essential oils, oregano and cinnamon
products, and some fairly exotic things. One of the challenges
they have is trying to decide, and everyone comes in, Novus
included, and we think weve got good science and a very good
track record with this, with the best product on the market, so
how does a producer make that decision?
One thing that Novus believe puts them ahead of the
competition in this area is their research groups and technical
services groups, as well as their research farm which attempts to
simulate farm and production conditions. Taking these controlled
research results and extrapolating the data into sometimes not so
controlled production facilities is a very real challenge, there is
the question of whether the feed ingredients will have the same
effect in a less precise environment. Dr Buresh told us, one of
the things I am proud of at Novus are our research groups and
technical service groups, and the amount of science and the
commitment weve made to improving and developing products
that help our customers and taking it to the next step and saying
were willing to take this to your production facilities and help
you from there, because that is where the rubber meets the road;
we can do all the trials we want but our products have got to
perform in their production facility.
Dr Vazquez-Anon explained that the sub-therapeutic use of
antibiotics had, in some cases, allowed Producers not to pay
attention to ingredient quality, even when this could be causing
adverse health effects: What happens when you have poor
quality ingredients is that, the ingredient will make it into the

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cecum and that can lead to undesirable fermentation and that,
as you can imagine, is when gut health can become a challenge.
So we have come to realise that really, ingredient quality is
starting to play a role when before we didnt have to pay as much
attention.
Such increased awareness is owed in part to work undertaken
at the Novus research farm, where they house canulated pigs,
rumen canulated cows and chickens, in order to better understand
the digestibility of ingredients and look at the variability of
those Novus are promoting. Dr Vazquez-Anon expounded:
Weve been doing this to really help our customers predict
the digestibility of the incoming ingredient, but then also to
understand the role of enzymes and this is where we have been
doing a lot of work with proteases, helping understand how the
protease helps digest the protein sources and reduce that inherent
variation of ingredients that we see.
Novus current line of research has been from an ingredient
perspective intermingled with studying the conditions in which
gut trouble spreads in order to figure out which products or
programme of products works best under these conditions. What
weve been trying to do is really understand and create animal
models that help us develop that mild gut trouble [which can be
nascent and go undetected]. So thats what weve been doing at
our research facilities, creating that mild enteritis that hopefully
represents the commercial conditions so then we can start to
test all programmes and all products in a way that hopefully
represents better what is happening in the industry without having
to go to very severe animal models, said Dr Vazquez-Anon.
The outcomes of these models have been manifold, for
example; providing information on what happens when the
animals gut gets inflamed, revealing the capacity of the tissues

to maintain their integrity so pathogens cannot get through


the gut [causing] a lot of the inflammation and problems with
performance, as well as enabling the experts at Novus to study
changes in microflora to reduce toxidia, salmonella and ecoli.
The overall effect of the models, Dr Vazquez Anon explained
has really helped us understand the role of our products, but
a lot of the conditions we see in the field that would lead to
chronic enteritis problems such as ingredient quality and off feed
(where the chicken maybe hasnt been fed regularly) this has
really helped us understand a little bit more about what has been
happening in the field and finding solutions to it.

In all parts of the world they are talking about


antibiotics, and they want to know what the costs are

Of course, as previously espoused, the cost of production in


the wake of sub-therapeutic antibiotic use is a major concern
of Producers, as the removal of antibiotics, a fairly cheap feed
additive, can see production costs dramatically increase; for
example, experts have predicted meat prices would increase
and meat quality would decrease if antibiotics are disallowed
as a feed additive (LM Gersema). Dr Odetellah addressed this
concern: In all parts of the world they are talking about what
costs are for example growth promoting antibiotics are very
cheap feed additives, but it is very difficult to replace with a
like for like solution as most of the time one product does not
necessarily deliver or give the same impact as an antibiotic
growth promoter would do. Therefore, we have to come up with
a solution that might include one or two products which in certain
circumstances could be expensive.
For Novus, it all comes back to working in close proximity with
the customer to create affordable solutions so that they do not find

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themselves wading through a veritable minefield of information,
potentially adding unnecessary costs to their production. Dr
Odetallah reminded us we have a billion people in the world
who sleep without having dinner, there are a lot of people
who cannot afford food, reinforcing the necessity of creating
affordable solutions, he told us. So we work with the customer
first hand on finding the best solution that would help them, but
also at a cost that would actually not impact the production, not
impact the unit of production, whether it is a kilogram of meat,
or whether it is egg prices, as that reflects on the end user as the
consumer at the end of the day.
So working closely with the technical teams, working closely
with the research and development teams and with the customers
directly, working with customers on a daily basis, asking them
what they need and providing them with different types of
solutions we do case studies or case histories to understand
from day one what theyre doing and what kind of feed
ingredients they have and the feed additives that they have and
then we sit together and we come up with a solution that suits that
specific customer.

Antimicrobial resistant bacteria

The long-term effects of consistent sub-therapeutic antibiotic


use cannot be underestimated; there is scope to suggest that the
use of antibiotics in animal feeds can have a negative impact
further up the food chain, affecting the results of human antibiotic
usage, the panel explained: we all know about the cases of
antibiotic resistance and how that might negatively impact the
animal and also impact humans if it makes it into the food chain.
Basically, there are regulations which do not allow the antibiotics
to finally get into the food chain, but in the case that it does it
might have a negative impact.
The negative impact on both animals and humans arguably
reinforces the need for low impact, sustainable alternatives, Dr
Odetallah explained: As Mercedes and Bob mentioned we have
an array of solutions that would actually help and these solutions,
while they may not do or perform the function of an antibiotic it
definitely provides a solution and help to the customer to avoid
using antibiotics should they choose to, and help them cope with
the situations that they have. The proteases and enzymes in general
are a good example in how they improve the digestibility of the
feed ingredients and we have seen a lot of how this works in
different parts of the world, how they were actually able to reduce
diarrhea, reduce ammonia emissions of the cows and how it helped
them cope with the high mortality levels especially under heat
stress and under intense production situations. These solutions
Novus have been part of since it was established 25 years ago and
sustainability is at the core of what we do with our customers.

42 | August 2016 - Milling and Grain

Conclusion

What was clearly evident from the panel discussion was that
for ABF to become a reality there needs to be an integration
of disciplines, as the challenge cannot be solved by one team
alone, it is not simply an issue of nutrition - feed quality,
management practices, and improved animal welfare all play a
vital role in the production of animals. A nutritional approach
impacts mostly gut health, but it is equally important to ensure a
hygienic environment as this will similarly reduce the need for
antibiotics and reduce stress, which has a consistently negative
impact on animal health. This echoes Dr Vazquez-Anons earlier
assertion that the reduction in use of antibiotics calls for a truly
multidisciplinary approach. She concluded, It is this integration
of disciplines that is really happening at all levels because we
have a bigger problem that cannot be solved by one expertise. So
that really has helped us to work as a team, with customers, and
universities with veterinarians, with nutritionists and also with
the production groups so we really need to work together and
sometimes its challenging but it is also very rewarding.
Similarly Dr Buresh announced We at Novus, we understand
that our customers navigating around and away from less or no
antibiotics is not going to be easy for many of them, some have
done it, some are there and are moving right along but with most
of them it is going to require them to evaluate their practices,
their additives; they are not going to be able to do things the way
they always have and theyre going to have to remain flexible
and open to alternatives that five years ago they just thought were
unnecessary.
Interestingly, Dr Buresh went on to tell us that the variety
of products Novus have to help customers move away from
antibiotic usage were never developed intentionally for that
purpose but were actually developed to help in other niche
areas. Yet through such lines of research Novus have found
that, through happy coincidence, their feed additives can
solve many of the issues allayed by antibiotics, improving
such things as microflora and the animals immune system.
We know that the industry is changing and it could be a
threat but really I think it is an opportunity for us to bring
new technologies, which before perhaps didnt have a place
but now really have a place in a changing industry the panel
advocated.
There is evidence to prove that taking away antibiotics has not
only enhanced animal welfare, but has also led to advancements
in ingredient quality and the nutritional value of feed the
need to be more precise has resulted in long term sustainable
improvements.

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