Beneficial yeast and bacteria — like those found in a grocery store’s yogurt section — also can help improve the digestive functions of livestock, increasing animals’ feed efficiency and improving performance.
Probiotics, also known as direct-fed microbials (DFMs), describe bacteria and yeast associated with beneficial effects for animals. In fact, the term probiotics means products “for life.” Both probiotics and DFMs are terms for the same type of feed additive.
“Interest in using probiotics to help optimize digestive functions in livestock is growing,” says Angel Aguilar, Ph.D., Technical Services Manager at Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “It’s a natural way to optimize fermentation and digestive processes that can help improve production.”
Not just any microbes can be used as probiotics. The FDA requires the microorganisms to be on the Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) list, which means that they were reviewed and found to be safe. These are usually either naturally occurring microorganisms that originated from the gut of a normal, healthy animal, or those already known to be non-toxic to humans or animals, such as:
- Bacterial probiotics: Common bacterial products include Lactobacilli (like Lactobacillus acidophilus), Pediococci, Streptococci, Enterococci and Bifidobacteria
- Yeast probiotics: Most active dry yeast probiotics are from the genus Saccharomyces
Introducing specific yeasts or bacteria through livestock feed can be so beneficial that performance effects have been found.
“Across a number of scientific studies and real-world results, we’ve seen increased fiber breakdown, milk production, weight gain, improved pH stabilization, changes in milk composition, and decreased incidence of illness and mortality,” Dr. Aguilar says. “Today’s high-performing livestock in many cases require high-concentrate diets, and probiotics can help make the most of the nutrients in the ration.”
Probiotics do not have residues, side effects or withdrawal periods — meaning they can be fed to animals as long, and as often, as needed. Plus, they can be fed in conjunction with other feed additives, and yeast probiotics can even work concurrently with antibiotics.
Effects of probiotics are dependent on the strain of bacteria or yeast used and the feeding rate, Dr. Aguilar notes. Producers considering probiotics should ensure there is adequate research to back up any claims, and that the product uses the same strain and number of microbes as the research supporting it.
For instance, Lallemand Animal Nutrition carefully selects probiotic strains for specific purposes based on extensive research.
“Most recommended uses are based on studies with specific strains for the intended result”, he says. “Look carefully at the label recommendations and the research data behind the product. Not all products will provide the same result.”