Evaluation of probiotics as a substitute for antibiotics in a large pig nursery

Probiotics can perform as well as antibiotics to promote pig growth

source: S.K. Kritas and R.B. Morrison
Veterinary Record vol 156 no 14,
April 2 2005 starts p447, 2 pages long

Antibiotics are often used to promote growth in pigs, but there has been concern about antibiotic resistence transferring to human pathogens, as well as drug residues in food. This has led to tighter controls of antibiotic usage, and interest in probiotics as an alternative. Probiotics are yeast or bacteria cultures used to equilibrate intestinal flora. They may help to stimulate immune systems, and may compete with harmful flora in the gut, so help control some diseases caused by E.coli.  A study in Minnesota focused on a farm with 1,600 sows. Piglets were given low doses of antibiotics to prevent post-weaning diarrhoea linked to E.coli. A probiotic with Bacillus subtilis and Bacillis licheniformis was used in place of the antibiotics for one treatment group, while the other received their normal antibiotics. The results in terms of body weight and cost per pig and bodyweight kg were not significantly different, nor was there a difference in mortality  rates. Pigs can do as well on probiotics as on antibiotics in high-health status farming units, allowing antibiotics to be used to prevent or treat more serious conditions.