Animal nutrition strategies and options to reduce the use of antimicrobials in animal production

Smits, Coen H.; Li, Defa; Patience, John F.; Hartog, L.A. den


Antimicrobial resistance is a global and increasing threat. Stewardship campaigns have been established, and policies implemented, to safeguard the appropriate use of antimicrobials in humans, animals and plants. Restrictions on the use of antimicrobials in animal production are on the agenda worldwide. Producers are investing in measures, involving biosecurity, genetics, health care, farm management, animal welfare and nutrition, to prevent diseases and minimize the use of antimicrobials. Young animals (piglets, broiler chickens and calves) are particularly susceptible to diseases and disorders, and the use of antimicrobials on these animals is therefore relatively high. Functional nutrition to promote animal health is one of the tools available to decrease the need for antimicrobials in animal production. Nutrition affects the critical functions required for host defence and disease resistance. Animal nutrition strategies should therefore aim to support these host defence systems and reduce the risk of the presence in feed and water of potentially harmful substances, such as mycotoxins, anti-nutritional factors and pathogenic bacteria and other microbes. General dietary measures to promote gastrointestinal tract (GIT) health include, for example, the functional use of dietary fibres to stimulate gastrointestinal secretions and motility, lowering the protein content to avoid excessive fermentation of protein in the hindgut, and selective use of a combination of feed additives and feed ingredients to stabilize the intestinal microbiota and support mucosal barrier function. In addition, the use of organic acids may contribute to feed and water safety. This knowledge, used to establish best practices in animal nutrition, could allow the adoption of strategies to reduce the need for antimicrobials and contain antimicrobial resistance.