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Veterinary Feed Directive: Antibiotics and industry options

News   •   Jul 01, 2016 15:04 GMT

By Bob Lantz, Monogastric Business Manager, North America

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In June 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued rules amending the veterinary feed directive (VFD) section of the 1996 Animal Drug Availability Act. These new rules are intended to provide better clarity, simplicity of implementation and cost savings to the industry.

However, the new rules also initiate a new level of surveillance as certain OTC feed-use antimicrobial drugs are transitioned to their new VFD status and new requirements for record keeping by veterinarians, feed mills and producers are extended. While the new rules won’t take effect until December of 2016, the feed industry is gearing up for change.

In addition, the consumer conversation surrounding “Raised Without Antibiotics” (RWA) will likely ramp-up again, casting a suspicious eye on our industry with concern over meat and other products that make it to the kitchen table or the local drive through. What leaves a bad taste in the feed industry’s mouth centers largely on consumer misunderstandings about therapeutic antibiotic use when administered responsibly and now, the addition of VFD regulations that will curtail the availability of some common over-the-counter (OTC) treatment products. But since the consumer is our ultimate customer, the consumer voice needs to be acknowledged.

This confluence of VFD regulation updates and consumer RWA pressure leaves many producers looking for options — especially for the more vulnerable animal groups like those in the farrowing room and nursery. 

Until now, most medicated feed options have been available to the producer from the feed mill but some common products won’t be routinely available beginning early in 2017. How does the producer or feed mill stay in VFD compliance and still provide the best nutritional and performance options for their livestock?

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There is some good news. Probiotics like BioPlus® 2B are not VFD products, yet they encourage health and performance outcomes. For instance, controlling pathogenic bacteria is a key objective to enhancing gut integrity and health in the nursery pig. Achieving this can lead to improved average daily gain (ADG) and feed efficiency.

In the gut, antibiotics can very effectively kill pathogens but unfortunately they don’t discriminate when killing good bacteria either. The combination of probiotic strains in BioPlus® 2B on the other hand, have been documented in research trials to impede pathogenic growth and create an environment where additional beneficial bacteria necessary for a healthy and diverse gut microflora, can thrive.

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Research has shown that using BioPlus® 2B can reduce the pro-liferation of coliforms (a marker for undesirable bacteria) in the gut while creating an environment where abundant beneficial lactic acid bacteria can prosper. Without killing the beneficial bacteria species in the gut, and actually enhancing their presence, the effect of BioPlus® 2B in the diet is proven to support weight gain and feed efficiency.

The proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the gut of the pig contributes, not only to efficiency improvements, but also is a contributing factor in the enhanced conditioning of the gut lining. BioPlus® 2B has been shown to support growth of nutrient-absorbing villi, which aids the uptake of nutrients as a result of the much larger absorptive surface area.

One final contributing benefit to feed efficiency is that the bacteria selected for BioPlus® 2B secrete specific enzymes in the digestive tract that have the potential to support more effective nutrient utilization.

The digestive tract of a pig is a complex array of as many as 30 billion bacteria — some of which are potentially pathogenic. 

Undesirable gut pathogens can lead to health challenges including diarrhea, especially in nursery pigs, so controlling them with antibiotics can be a positive treatment option that can potentially lead to reduced death loss.

With the VFD regulations in play, however, access to these antibiotics at point of need could present a challenge many producers don’t want to take. Additionally, with a VFD required when treating specific pig groups or when treating in combination with another antibiotic, the tightrope associated with full compliance can be narrow and potentially labor-intensive and expensive.

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Not all consumers support the conversation to completely eliminate antibiotic use in livestock production, but the voice of the supporters is growing louder and stronger. With a nod to consumers and compliance for regulators, the feed industry, fortunately, does have an option. A foundation for building any solid gut optimization program should be built on BioPlus® 2B.

Included in sow, starter and nursery feeds for more than 20 years, BioPlus® 2B has been proven effective when used either with or without therapeutic antibiotics or growth promoters. Non-VFD BioPlus® 2B is the unparalleled gold standard in swine nutrition and gut microflora modulation.