10 April 2018- In June of 2017, the Standing Committee on Veterinary Medicinal Products in the EU voted to withdraw marketing authorizations for veterinary medicines containing zinc oxide, giving member states five years to enact the restrictions within their own jurisdictions. EFSA, meanwhile, has called for dramatic reductions in the use of copper in piglet diets as well. Both steps might be seen as examples of an evolving “demedication” concept, which proposes going beyond simply the replacement of antibiotics and instead embracing approaches which include the prevention of illness and the support of animal wellness through non-medical means. And both would have significant effects on swine production, which will lose some key tools it has relied on to control health challenges in the absence of antibiotic solutions.

To understand how demedication will change swine production, Feedinfo News Service spoke to David Saornil, product manager for swine applications at Lallemand Animal Nutrition, a company focusing on the management of microbial ecosystems, both in the animal’s digestive tract and its external environment, in line with the demedication approach.

David Saornil
Product Manager, Swine Applications

[Feedinfo News Service] One of the major reasons some customers turn to antibiotics or ZnO is to deal with diarrhea in weaning piglets. What other options are available to combat this?

[David Saornil] As we are moving away from antimicrobials it is important to take one step back and look at the whole picture. First of all, nutritional strategies are being developed to reduce the need to apply antibiotics in the feed, strategies including the reduction of the protein or calcium level and the application of certain types and levels of fiber in the feed. Then feed additives can represent an additional tools. At Lallemand Animal Nutrition we have decades of experience of microbial ecosystems management and we believe that by balancing the piglet gut microbiota, as well as the microbial ecosystems of the animal’s environment, we can have a virtuous approach to piglet health.

In particular, the most documented solutions appear to be pre- and probiotics that can leverage the gut microbiota. In this area, the live yeast strain S. cerevisiae var. boulardii CNCM I-1079 is one of the most documented probiotics in swine, with proven effects on microbiota regulation, intestinal structure and natural defenses, with consequences on piglet performance and welfare post-weaning. More recently, we have developed and started to document in piglets a synergistic alliance of specific inactivated yeast strains: YANG. Trials have shown that YANG can also contribute to help the piglets deal with the post-weaning challenge, especially under difficult situations.

Beyond these existing solutions, the demedication concept is an important driver of our internal and collaborative research activities. Lallemand is proud to participate to several research projects bringing together leading scientists and industry actors involved in the animal feeding and pig breeding sides, in order to study the microbiological and genetic bases of piglet sensitivity at weaning. An improved understanding of piglets’ microflora before and after weaning should help identify new ways to adapt piglet production systems to a reduction of antibiotic use. We are also strongly involved, together with academic partners, in the development of a dedicated colonic fermentation model to study piglet intestinal dysbiosis around weaning and assess solutions to limit or control its occurrence.

[Feedinfo News Service] Are many customers also using live yeasts or yeast derivatives together with an antimicrobial solution like ZnO or antibiotics during the weaning period? Does this detract from the efficacy of these solutions?

[David Saornil] This depends on the country and local regulation. However we have shown that S. boulardii and YANG are compatible with antibiotics and zinc oxide. For example an independent trial conducted by the team of Prof. G. Savoini from University of Milan which was presented at the 68th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) in 2017 shows that S. cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079 is compatible with in-feed antibiotics and ZnO, showing its efficacy either to enhance post-weaning performance when used on top of antibiotics and zinc oxide, or to help reducing feed medication.

When it comes to YANG, we have also seen that it is quite effective as well, when used together with ZnO in a prestarter feed, in preparing the piglets gut for a starter ZnO-free feed. This is actually very important as one of the drawbacks of ZnO application is that, while it is quite efficient in reducing the risk of diarrhea, it also creates a dysbiosis itself in the gut. In the field it is typical to detect enteric trouble happening once we pass the piglets from a ZnO feed to a ZnO-free feed. In this context of ZnO reduction, YANG (when used together with other nutritional strategies) is shown as a valuable feed solution to either shorten the duration of use of ZnO, reduce its concentration in feed, or to totally phase it out from the feed.

[Feedinfo News Service] When should producers start thinking about introducing a demedicated regime? For example, are these solutions mainly for fattening pigs? Weaning piglets? Must they be introduced in prestarter feed? What about the diet for the breeding sows; does that also play a part?

[David Saornil] Usually the most critical period on a swine farm, when it comes to the removal of antibiotics, is the period immediately post-weaning. In order to overcome this period, it is very important to offer a prestarter diet with a healthier composition for the intestine, taking into account aspects like microbial populations, gut barrier integrity, efficacy of the immune system, etc. But apart from that, a very important part of the success can be the quality of the piglets at weaning, and we can influence it working through the sow diet. It is amazing how sow’s nutrition can impact the development of the piglets even after weaning.

[Feedinfo News Service] Is it fair to say that demedication is only relevant to farmers who are able to maintain the highest levels of biosecurity, and is ineffective in conditions that are less than optimal?

[David Saornil] Everything is linked in swine production. When a swine farm wants to go through a demedication process, there are several steps to go trying to prevent the risk of pathogenic microbes spreading around. Those steps include management, biosecurity, prevention, etc. By taking these precautions, we are also reducing the need for an antibiotic treatment.

[Feedinfo News Service] Well, that seems like a pretty traditional view of biosecurity. Are there any ways in which demedication is transforming biosecurity?

[David Saornil] Biosecurity at farm level is a set of measures and actions to minimize the entry and the spread of pests and disease. And for champions of demedication, animal environment is an important area for progress. In this context, we believe that the next revolution in this area will be to convince producers that disinfection is not enough. A virtuous approach is to occupy the emptied space with positive microflora. For example, we have recently developed a positive biofilm solution. It is a mix of selected and concentrated bacilli and lactic acid bacteria applied to help secure building surfaces through the implementation of a positive and protective biofilm after chemical disinfection. Trials in piglet production units indicated a preventive action on the development and speed of growth of undesirable microflora in animal surroundings such as Streptococci or coliforms. The establishment of a safer microbial environment before the entry of the animals, thus, contributes to improved hygiene conditions and can help to reach demedication objectives.

[Feedinfo News Service] Is the “demedication” concept mainly focused on EU countries? What kind of interest have you seen in this concept in other markets?

[David Saornil] There is a global trend to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock, to address public health concerns, especially in the context of antimicrobial resistance and the WHO “One Health” approach, and to meet consumers’ demands. While we have already been hearing about it for more than 20 years, it looks like today this is a hot topic in most of the swine markets. It is amazing how China is taking big steps to remove colistin and other antibiotics from the feed. Japan and Vietnam have also new regulations on the topic restricting the use of antibiotics. Other countries like South Korea are quite advanced as the application of a pharmacological dose of ZnO has not been allowed for several years.

[Feedinfo News Service] Are you working on solutions for the demedication of feed in other species, such as poultry or ruminants?

[David Saornil] Of course, antimicrobial reduction is a global trend that concerns all livestock species and this is the core of our expertise and approach in all animal species: ruminants, poultry, and aquaculture. For example, in young ruminants, weaning also represents important challenges. Reducing in-feed medication is one thing but this should not lead to increased treatment costs. In calves for example, the cost of medication can reach up to 20 €/calf post-weaning due to morbidity, largely from diarrhea (according to an internal European field survey from Lallemand). There too, nutritional solutions such as our multi strain yeast fraction product propose interesting approaches to alleviate the stress of weaning and associated morbidity. We have had much positive feedback on kid goats, lambs, and calves at farm level. Trials in practical field conditions demonstrate significant reduction in morbidity rates, leading to a reduction of antibiotic treatments and diarrhea treatments.