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Using Probiotics in Agriculture

May 3, 2013

I’ve seen conversations where someone with livestock mentions using a probiotic in the feed and receives condemnation for feeding antibiotics to make people sick.  Although they sound similar, they’re widely different.

One type of probiotic is Probios, which lists this description on their website:

The word “probiotics” literally means “for life” and is the opposite of the word antibiotic. Probiotics are good bacteria that can help boost the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut, whereas antibiotics attack and kill infections and unwanted bacteria. For animals, probiotics are more commonly referred to as direct fed microbials, or DFM’s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecently I moved a doe and litter to a larger cage – more space is good, and I needed the nest box she was in for another doe’s expected litter. The doe had 5 healthy, active babies but two were what I thought were abnormally small. They didn’t appear *sick* but weren’t right either. The coat was a little rough, eyes were bright, appetite seemed good but something was “off”.

Now I hear all the time that those in agriculture use too many antibiotics. We reach for drugs at the drop of a hat. The reality is, be it cow, sheep, rabbit or chicken – we really don’t. Drugs cost money, and it doesn’t do any good if it doesn’t fix a problem.

In the case of these babies, they weren’t sick. No discharge or anything to indicate they needed antibiotics, which was good because they were so small it would be tough to dose them! Gut feeling and experience said it wasn’t coccidia, which we do treat with medication if we see signs of it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI haven’t used probiotics but have read quite a bit about their use in other species. I got a tube in at the feed store, read the directions and scaled down dramatically for the two bunnies. They were not happy with the green pea sized smushy stuff squeezed into their mouths. I then put a second feeder, lower to the floor, so these two tiny mites could easily reach pellets at least twice per day.

It worked! They slicked up and are gaining weight as they should be. Animals are prone to getting sick when stressed – it may be good stress or bad stress but the body just recognizes stress. In this case, they moved to a new cage space, although still with their mom. This litter is sired by our buck Dio and out of Mistletoe – so they’re show and breeding prospects, not slated for meat bunnies.

In a few days I’ll check and give them a second dose if need be, as a boost to a healthy gut. Prevention of  getting sick means we don’t have to rely on antibiotics and medications – which we much prefer!

Probiotics may be given to an individual in a gel as I did, or as a powder in their feed. Again – this doesn’t treat illness, at least not directly. It boosts the natural ‘good bugs’ much like yogurt does for people and allows the animal to fight off illness on their own.

That’s much better than using antibiotics! Those have a place, yes, but it’s preferred as a last resort. It stops an animal from getting sick and boosts their immunity.

We feel, as many involved in agriculture, this is better for all.

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