A non-antibiotic path toward livestock performace

Written by Steve Fairchild on .

By now you are familiar with the Veterinary Feed Directive that will be implemented by the FDA this year. The directive will require new thinking about when and how to treat livestock with antibiotics. Alternative paths to animal health are growing in popularity. Pharmaceutical companies are removing growth promotion and feed efficiency claims from bovine drug labels, and regulatory oversight for antibiotic rescue treatments is increasing.

Under the new rules, producers will be required to obtain a Veterinary Feed Directive to administer controlled antibiotics. Only veterinarians can issue VFDs and they must do it within the context of what USDA is calling the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. In other words, the vet will be required to engage with the livestock producer, know and visit the operation and provide for follow-up care. Furthermore, the vet will be required to document VFDs, which will make antibiotic use traceable up and down the sales chain.

With an eye on export markets and knowing that changes were coming in domestic antibiotic rules, last year MFA introduced Shield Technology to the market. Feeds with Shield Technology have been well-received by the cooperative’s customer base, and MFA’s feed team is at work to document the success of individual producers as they try Shield Technology on their farms.

Shield Technology employs a research-tuned blend of essential oils and other additives to enhance animal performance and health.

The goal for feeds formulated with MFA’s Shield Technology is multifaceted. The unique ingredients are designed improve animal health, but also to extend shelf life and bunk freshness, which improves feed intake.

As it is ingested, feed with Shield Technology improves the function of livestock immune system through improved gut health, eases the effects of heat stress and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut, which, in turn, benefits populations of beneficial bacteria.

There is a vast amount of research on essential oils used for feed in multiple livestock species. Scientists believe that such compounds benefit livestock through inhibition of non-beneficial microbes in the gut by disrupting the organisms’ cell membranes. Aside from directly antagonistic effects on non-beneficial bacteria, the increase of beneficial bacteria creates competitive exclusion—the “good” bugs out-crowd the “bad.”

In fact, these plant-based compounds are called “essential” oils because of the role they play in plant health, providing certain antioxidant, antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties. They are essential to a plant’s natural defense system.

Research has also shown that certain blends of essential oils function as antioxidants. Antioxidants work to counteract free radicals which can lead to multiple health concerns. You’ve probably read about the benefits of antioxidants in human health.

MFA’s Shield Technology focuses on the right blend of essential oils and a patented process that makes them more effective once in the digestive track. The focus is on efficient absorption and the ability of the animal to properly metabolize the ingredient. The formulations also focus on proper dosage. These factors put Shield Technology on the positive side of research results.

MFA Shield Technology also employs probiotic additives that act as immune modulators. Immune modulators activate white blood cells in the immune system, which then more effectively fend off parasites, fungus and non-beneficial bacteria.

Finally, the addition of specific carbohydrates brings additional benefit to gut health. The digestive tract is not only the largest group of organs; it is its own cosmos of billions of microorganisms. That’s especially the case in ruminants, which depend on fermentation for digestion.

The right balance of beneficial bacteria improves feed efficiency and overall performance of livestock. And specific carbohydrates such as Mannan Oligosaccharides have been shown to bind with bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, helping reduce toxins in the gut.

Shield Technology is being implemented across the MFA feed portfolio. For more information, contact your local MFA feed representative.

"Phytogenic" feeds are a growing market.

Whether it is driven domestically by new regulatory oversight or by export customer preference, the demand for non-antibiotic-derived growth promotion is a catalyst for new formulations of livestock feed. The general classification for naturally derived beneficial ingredients is “phytogenics." 

According to studies from Market Research Technology, MFA’s Shield technology is leading the way in a growing market. Phytogenics are poised to take off.

One driver is strong demand for meat production. Global demand for meat is more than 310 million tons (2014 data) with year-over-year growth at 1.8 percent. In aggregate, meat consumption has expanded more than fourfold over the past five decades.

The second driver is regulatory. Changes here in the US and existing rules in the EU and other markets have called for a reduction in antibiotics use in livestock production. In fact, the EU has banned antibiotic use in feed since 2006 and our FDA’s new regulations will arrive at the end of this year. These regions are promoting the use of natural additives, particularly plant extracts.

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