Field experience on the use of probiotics in chickens and turkeys

Anita Menconi and James Barton Pacific Vet Group, Fayetteville, AR

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Probiotics have been used for several years in an attempt to improve intestinal health. Recently, microbial products have been extensively studied as supportive treatments for raising poultry without antibiotics. 

Regardless of the intended use, when testing a probiotic product efficacy, effects on commercial flocks are an essential consideration. Therefore, the goal of this research was to analyze the effects of commercial probiotics on poultry health and performance under field condition. Selected field application of three different probiotic products was evaluated.

The probiotic products tested were a hatchery applied lactic acid bacteria probiotic, FloraStart®, a water administered lactic acid bacteria probiotic, FloraMax-B1®, and a feed administered Bacillus subtilis spore direct fed microbial, Sporulin®.

Four field experiments were conducted to evaluate the impact of FloraStart® on seven days mortality and body weight of commercial broiler chicks. In experiments 1 and 2, a decrease in the 7 days cumulative mortality was observed in the houses where chicks received probiotic in the hatchery. In experiments 3 and 4, chicks sprayed with the probiotic product at the hatchery showed significant (P < 0.05) higher body weight at 7 days of age compared to controls. Three field experiments were conducted to evaluate the influence of FloraMax-B11® on performance and mortality of commercial broilers and turkeys.

In experiment 1, FloraMax-B11® was administered to turkey hens at feed changes. Significant (P < 0.05) increase on average daily gain and market body weight as well as improvement in feed conversion was observed.

In experiment 2, FloraMax-B11® was administered to broilers at 2, 11, and 22 days. Increase on average daily gain and market body weight and significant (P <0.05) decrease in feed conversion and final mortality was observed.

In experiment 3, two broiler flocks (Control and FloraMax-B11® at days 8, 21, and 35) were compared at processing. FloraMax-B11® treated broilers showed significant (P < 0.05) improvement on body weight, feed conversion, and mortality compared to control. Moreover, the association of one dose of FloraStart® in the hatchery and one dose of FloraMax-B11® in the field showed improvement of body weight, mortality, and condemnation of broilers at market age.

Additionally, two field experiments were conducted to evaluate the impact of Sporulin® on performance, mortality, and Salmonella spp. reduction. In experiment 1, Sporulin in the feed significantly (P< 0.05) improved body weight gain and reduced Salmonella spp. count in cecal contents. In experiment 2, Sporulin® in the feed reduced cumulative flock mortality and improved feed conversion and body weight in broilers.

Generally, commercial field trials differ from controlled research trials by several aspects such as higher variability, including issues with blocking and measurement assessment. Due to this, it is essential to test and analyze probiotic products under both controlled and commercial conditions in order to evaluate and validate their effects.