Antibiotics are widely used for the prevention, control and treatment of diseases and bacterial infections in human and animals. It is also widely used to boost growth in livestock, including chickens.
However, the rise in “superbugs” or antibiotic resistant bacteria, linked to antibiotic use in animal feed in recent years, have resulted in push back, including from consumers and the medical fraternity, and resulted in a ban on the use of in-feed antibiotics in Europe and other parts of the world.
The mandate to remove antibiotics from feed is voluntary, but fast food and supermarkets require their chicken meat to be free of antibiotics. While good news for consumers, the reduced use of antibiotics in animal feed has resulted in more frequent outbreaks of animal enteric diseases, including necrotic enteritis, a highly-contagious and often fatal disease that can decimate poultry farms.
“We’re in a race against time to find a suitable alternative to antibiotics for the poultry industry,” says Professor Robert Swick, Industrial Coordinator for the Poultry Hub at the University of New England.
“Not only to combat disease outbreaks in poultry, but also to effectively manage the production costs of meat chickens.” Professor Swick explains that when antibiotics are removed from feed, the birds may require up to an additional 10 to 20 per cent more grain and protein meals to reach the same market weight as they did with the antibiotics. Poultry Site