Probiotics 101

One of the most widely discussed topics in the poultry world today is probiotics. In my opinion, this is by far one of the most intriguing tools that a poultry producer can have in their arsenal. Probiotics help birds in many ways, but ultimately they help the birds maintain a healthier digestive system. Probiotics are not only for the ABF grower; they can provide major benefits to conventional production as well. After all, we all realize that a healthy gut in turn makes a healthier bird. Probiotics can be added in the feed or through the water, and each vehicle of delivery can provide different ‘bugs’ and methods of action. Probiotics can be confusing for some producers as there are so many products on the market. It is important to use the right kind, and administer probiotics at the right time.

Method of delivery
Producers often ask if probiotics should be added to feed or water? I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, which is why I personally choose both! Feed grade Probiotics can provide bacillus strains of bacteria, which can benefit the animal. It is crucial that the right type of bacteria probiotic is included in the feed as some strains cannot survive without refrigeration and will not be viable if included in the feed. Probiotics that are administered through the drinking water can contain different strains of bacteria with different properties. It is a good idea to use a combination of both feed grade and water probiotics to capture the value of several strains of good bacteria. A good combination of feed grade and water probiotics will help to ensure that your bird’s gut can be as healthy as possible. A healthier gut will allow the bird to in turn digest and absorb nutrients much more effectively.

Another factor to the effective use of probiotics is timing. While it can be a good idea to have a probiotic in the feed at all times, you can capture benefits of using probiotics in the water at different times in the life of your birds. Some of the most beneficial times to use probiotics are before and after periods of stress. One of the instances when I realize the most benefits is after vaccination. Upon vaccination, your bird’s immune system can be suppressed. This is a good time to seed that bird’s gut with good bacteria. This will help the bird overcome the vaccination “downer” period and recover faster and not lose much performance. Other times to use probiotics are after moving from the brooder to the finishing barns, and during a diet change.

In the water
Probiotics must be administered properly in the water or you can end up killing the good bugs you are trying to get into your birds. If you are using any type of water sanitation program, it must be completely out of your lines. Turn off any chemicals in your line and flush the lines, then administer your probiotic. It is a good idea to walk the birds every half hour to make sure they get up and move around, thus improving their chances of drinking the water!

Probiotics are a great tool to have in your tool box. It is crucial that they are used properly, and at the right times. Finding a good probiotic is another important matter. Good quality and viable products aren’t always the least expensive in price, yet in the case of probiotics you get what you pay for. Contact your Sioux Nation Ag Center representative with any questions, issues, or concerns you have with using probiotics on your farm.