A Scout’s honour to do our best on antibiotics

In my formative years, I was a member of our local Scout unit, whose motto was the same as any around the world: “Be Prepared.”
A (good) few years after leaving the Scouts, that ‘Be Prepared’ maxim stayed with me.

In the context of pig production, I believe that this adage is also a very good fit for our industry, particularly now as we enter into the new reality of antibiotic reduction.

In the past month, we have had several industry events, such as SFT Pigs, the National Pig Awards and EuroTier, each of which gave some degree of airtime to antibiotic reduction/removal. Having just returned from EuroTier, the buzzwords were very much ‘antibiotic free’ (ABF).

Undoubtedly, technology and innovative products will have a huge role to play in achieving ABF pork production, but this needs to be in conjunction with, rather than in place of, the fundamental pillars of production.

In reality, we are all aware of the potential health challenges that exist. However, from a practical standpoint, it is impossible to address the vast array of potential microbial threats individually, or to predict what the next bug to challenge the herd will be.

Therefore, we must prioritise the fundamental pillars of production that offer broad strokes protection, namely: all-in/all-out pig flow, sanitation, biosecurity and stockmanship, and ensure that we excel at them. So, in Scouting terms, that’s the ‘Dyb, Dyb, Dyb’ bit – do your best.

“We must prioritise the fundamental pillars of production that offer broad strokes protection”

But what about the ‘Dob, Dob, Dob’ bit? As nutritionists, my colleagues and I have a huge opportunity to facilitate the production of healthy pigs, without the use of antibiotics.

The decisions we make around nutrition will have a critical influence on the success of the production system. Get it right from the start, and we have a platform with an amazing potential for efficiency, get it wrong and we have lost that incredible potential.

Understanding the digestive tract and ingredients, and how both interact with the health of the animal are our fundamental pillars, and we must ensure we take every opportunity to excel in this area. This starts with adopting the best nutritional strategies and products that will help support the development and maintenance of a heathy gut.

Naturally, the use of quality, highly digestible raw materials will have a critical influence on this, but other key micro ingredients can also have a very influential role in contributing to gut health.

Fatty acids have well-documented positive effects on villous integrity in the small intestine. By helping to establish the villi, specific fatty acids can contribute to an increase in the surface area for absorption of nutrients and, as a result, increase growth. The intestinal wall is also a key interface area, and one of the first lines of defence from microbial and viral challenges, so keeping this organ healthy has other far-reaching benefits.

Ultimately, by making the right choices about micro- and macro-nutrition, we can go a long way towards helping the animal to stay healthy and fulfil its potential for efficient performance. Dob, Dob, Dob – do our best.

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