Seed, Feed, Weed
Promoting good animal gut health is paramount in ensuring that your herd or flock reaches its full genetic potential.
The gut is the first portal of entry for a vast array of pathogens, and it interacts with all other bodily systems. Maintaining good gut health will minimize disruption to production caused by disease challenges, opening the path for antibiotic reduction. As such, there is no silver bullet for improving gut health status; instead, we must focus on:
Dr. S. Collett of the University of Georgia has created a model encompassing the key factors influencing gut health — the ‘Seed, Feed, Weed Concept.’ Conscious of the parameters facing commercial operations, the program is designed to be:
The program results are measurable, ensuring benefits can be quantified. Dr. Collett describes the concept in terms of caring for crops — sowing seeds of the crops you want to grow, fertilizing the crops for optimal growth and weeding out other plants that may prevent your crop from growing optimally.
The Seed, Feed & Weed Program
Seeding the gut with favorable organisms
In a natural environment, the young animal’s gut would be seeded with the microorganisms from the mother’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract through vertical transmission. Typically, the young animal would also be born into a nest environment, allowing the mother’s microbiota to transfer through fecal material, leading to colonization of the gut. Modern farming practices reduce these opportunities. In poultry breeder birds are fed in order to improve their fertility, and as such, often their microbial population changes to become aberrant. This flora can be passed to chicks on the surface of the shell and will become the first flora to enter the gut.
‘Seeding’ the young animal’s gut with a probiotic ensures that a diverse microflora population can develop, and outcompete the aberrant flora from the parents, creating the framework on which to build good gut health.
With the right intestinal microflora now in place, piglets, chicks and calves show improvements in:
- Early growth
- Feed conversion
Feeding a favorable environment
Once a favorable microorganism population is established in the gut, it is important to ensure that the surrounding environment is optimized for growth and replication. In the young animal there are few organisms established, so it is important that these beneficial bacteria are given the best chance of outcompeting any inherited aberrant microflora.
Most beneficial microflora are acid-tolerant and therefore grow best at lower pH. In contrast, potentially pathogenic organisms such as Clostridia and Campylobacter are intolerant to acidic conditions. Feeding a buffered weak organic acid compound provides a competitive disadvantage to the unfavorable bacteria, allowing beneficial organisms to prosper. Using a weak acid ensures that it is not inactivated at the top of the GI tract, allowing it to reach the small intestine and provide maximum benefit.
Once a beneficial microflora community and intestinal ecology are established, the villi will flourish. This is critical for health and feed efficiency: The healthier the villi an animal has, the more efficiently nutrients are absorbed.
Weeding out unfavorable organisms
Even with a healthy, diverse microflora, stressors throughout an animal’s life can alter the gut environment. Preserving favorable gut conditions is vital to preventing performance challenges. The ‘Weed’ principle maintains the correct balance of microbial species by removing unfavorable bacteria and contributes the biggest proportion of the overall program.
This is also crucial in reducing antibiotic usage and its effect on microbial diversity. Historically, antibiotics were used to remove gut pathogens. However, their non-specific nature means they can remove beneficial organisms too. A recolonized gut post-antibiotic use has a significantly reduced microbial diversity, diminishing its many benefits.
Alltech solutions help prevent pathogenic bacteria from binding to the epithelium, maintaining microbial diversity, which improves the animal’s natural defenses.
For a pathogen to cause disease, it first needs to adhere to the gut epithelial lining. It does this via type-1 fimbriae projections, which recognize specific carbohydrate molecules on the gut cell wall. Once attached, the pathogen can replicate, which can then lead to:
- Villi structure alteration
- A reduction in the animal’s absorption
An animal exhibiting good gut health is one that makes the most efficient use of its feed with minimal disruption to production when subjected to any form of stress.
The ‘Seed, Feed, Weed’ program aids in reducing antibiotic usage by
- Seeding the gut with favorable organisms for improved performance in young animals
- Feeding a favorable environment to provide a competitive advantage to favourable bacteria, which are tolerant to acidic environments, unlike most pathogens
- Weeding out unfavorable bacteria by selective exclusion
While antibiotics still have a crucial role in disease outbreak incidences, effective gut health management using the ‘Seed, Feed, Weed’ program has been shown to reduce the need for antibiotic use in many commercial flocks and herds, as well as enhance performance across several measures.
Paired with effective biosecurity, water and farm management, the Alltech Seed, Feed, Weed solution helps producers get one step further on the path of improved performance and reduced antibiotic use.
Providing solutions for each step of the Seed, Feed, Weed process, Alltech is a one-stop shop for gut health.
Pig: Pathway to ZnO-free: a holistic approach optimizes gut health
Time is running out to find solutions that could be used to replace therapeutic, high-level zinc oxide (ZnO) in weaned piglets. The EU will ban the use of medicinal levels of ZnO in 2022, and other regions will follow suit.
Alltech’s Seed, Feed, Weed (SFW) program is a timed gut health strategy that ensures your piglets perform optimally, even under stress. It is a synergistic combined approach to accelerate the evolution of the microbial community to a stable state and then maintain the status quo. Thanks to the antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and digestive properties, these natural ingredients stabilize piglets’ intestinal flora, boost their feed intake and set them up for strong and sustainable health and growth performance. Alltech SFW makes the transition to ZnO-free piglet diets more reliable and cost-effective.
Poultry: Achieve profitability in a sustainable manner
There is a broad interest in developing natural nutritional strategies to promote gut health and development in birds, maximizing lifetime growth performance, minimizing antibiotic use and improving the overall sustainability of production. Alltech’s SFW program is designed to positively impact gut health, affecting both microbial diversity and gut structure. This is essential for the bird and helps ensure optimal lifetime performance and profitability for producers in a sustainable manner.
Calves: Improve immunity for life-long benefits
A healthy gut is crucial for a healthy calf, and every calf disease will leave subclinical or clinical effects that may lead to early culling or reduced milk production. Establishing gut health and development in calves is essential for building a foundation for performance and profitability in the future herd. Alltech’s SFW program plays a crucial role in helping producers invest in future performance by modifying the gut and helping establish a favorable and more diverse microbial population after birth.