May 29, 2024

Fighting Infections: Poultry Antibiotics Explained


How Poultry Antibiotics are Used in Poultry Production

Antibiotics have been routinely used in commercial poultry production for many decades now. The main reasons for their use are to promote faster growth and prevent diseases. Antibiotics allow poultry growers to raise birds in close proximity and unnatural conditions which would otherwise increase disease outbreaks. Some of the common ways antibiotics are administered to poultry include:

– Feeding low doses of antibiotics in chicken feed. This is called as dietary or feed supplementation and is the most widely used method. It helps prevent bacterial infections in the gut and supports overall health.

– Injecting antibiotics intramuscularly or subcutaneously. This is usually done for treatment of existing infections or as a preventative measure before moving birds to new facilities.

– Adding antibiotics to drinking water. This method is employed for flock-wide treatment of respiratory or other infectious diseases.

Potential Benefits of Antibiotic Use

While the practice of antibiotic use in commercial poultry farming is controversial, there are some potential benefits it provides:

– Improved growth and feed efficiency. Studies have shown that antibiotic supplemented feed results in birds reaching marketable size and weight up to 2-3 weeks sooner. This translates to significant economic gains for producers.

– Lower mortality rates. Preventing bacterial infections through antibiotics allows birds to complete their grow out periods with less disease burden and deaths. Mortality rates in flocks given antibiotics are usually half of those not receiving them.

– Reduced production costs. Faster growth cycles and fewer bird losses offset the additional costs of antibiotics used. Overall production costs per broiler or egg produced are lowered.

– Prevention of disease outbreaks. Mass medication allows poultry farms to house thousands of birds in close, unsanitary conditions. Antibiotics mitigate opportunistic infections that would otherwise spread rapidly.

Risks of Antibiotic Overuse and Resistance

While antibiotics have helped advance industrialized poultry production, their overuse also poses serious risks:

– Antibiotic resistance. When consumed even in small amounts regularly, bacteria exposed to antibiotics can become resistant to their effects over time. This threatens human and animal health by making infections harder to treat.

– Contamination of meat and eggs. Resistant bacteria can pass from birds to consumers through undercooked poultry products. This is concerning for public health experts. Studies find such ‘superbugs’ in retail chicken frequently.

– Residues in meat. Despite withdrawal periods before slaughter, traces of antibiotics consumed by birds may remain in their tissues. Long term low level exposure through diet is a concern.

– Impact on gut and bird health. Constant antibiotic use disrupts beneficial bacteria in bird intestines and immune system development. This could paradoxically increase disease susceptibility in the long run.

– Environmental pollution. Unmetabolized antibiotics excreted by birds persist in their manure which is then used as fertilizer. This contributes to spread of resistance in agricultural soils and waterbodies.

Alternatives to Antibiotic Overuse

With global efforts to curb poultry antibiotics overuse in food animal production, some alternative approaches pursued by poultry farmers include:

– Improved biosecurity and hygiene practices. Strict limitations on external visitors, vermin control, waste management, and ‘all-in, all-out’ farming prevents disease transmission.

– Vaccination programs. Having effective immunization schedules against major poultry pathogens reduces their need for disease prevention via antibiotics.

– Probiotics supplementation. Feeding birds probiotic bacteria that competitive exclude pathogenic strains leads to balanced gut microflora.

– Selective breeding. Genetic selection of breeds that are more robust and display better immunity against common infections.

– Management modifications. Larger house sizes, natural light exposure, enhanced environments improve bird welfare and lower stress-induced disease risks.

– Feed supplements. Additives like prebiotics, organic acids, enzymes, herbs, and oilsaid gut health andnutrient absorption, supportingoverall immunitywithout antibiotics.

– Disease monitoring and prompt treatment. Surveillance and rapid response to any outbreaks through limited, targeted antibiotic therapy when absolutely needed.

In summary, while antibiotics have enabled large-scale poultry farming, more sustainable practices are now needed due to growing resistance concerns. With non-antibiotic alternatives, farmers can maintain productivity while transitioning to antibiotic-free production systems over time. This balance will strengthen animal agriculture for the long run.

 *Note :
1.     Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2.     We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile