Faccenda uses ‘holistic’ approach to antibiotic reduction

Poultry producer Faccenda Foods has cut its antibiotic usage by 70% over the past two years with the help of animal well-being experts St David’s Poultry Team.

St David’s Poultry Team has been working with Faccenda to look at new ways of maintaining the health of the birds on-farm and limiting the need for medication.

Working across all 80 of Faccenda’s farms, St David’s introduced bespoke management practices to maximise bird health, starting by treating new-born chicks with probiotics to encourage healthy gut development.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a world human health issue,” said Richard Turner, director at St David’s Poultry Team. “Antibiotic use in agriculture is also a growing concern for consumers, so it’s really important that we focus on it. Humans use probiotics to support their gut health, we are just adapting that technology for use in poultry.”

St David’s also recommended that Faccenda analyse its water and add in natural acids to keep it as clean as possible, with a yeast extract going into the chicken feed to bind any ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut and reduce the risk of infection taking hold. “We call this approach seed, weed and feed,” said Turner. “We seed the gut with healthy bacteria, using probiotics, weed out ‘bad’ bacteria and feed the ‘good’ bacteria with natural acids. The more healthy bacteria there are in the gut, the more competition there is against the bad ones, which cause sickness.”

David Neilson, general manager for chicken agriculture at Faccenda, said: “It’s like a Holland & Barrett approach to bird health. We use essential oils, oregano and garlic: If the chickens get an upset tummy, we use natural oils to help them recover, rather than going straight in with antibiotics.”

Faccenda has used a similar approach on its duck and turkey farms, and the wider industry has also been working to reduce antibiotic usage since 2011, when the British Poultry Council launched its antibiotic stewardship scheme. Headed by Faccenda’s agricultural director Reg Smith, this scheme aims to encourage the recording and reduction of antibiotics in poultry farms across the UK.

Through this scheme, the industry has slashed its antibiotic use by 44% between 2012 and 2015, while increasing production by 5%. “The scheme has been a great success, but there’s no reason why we can’t achieve even more,” said Neilson. “We need investment in new products, technology and knowledge transfer to drive down antibiotic use and improve bird health further. This is a legacy we can pass on to future generations; we can all work together to solve common challenges.”

Neilson added that producers shouldn’t aim for completely antibiotic-free production. “Our antibiotic use is so low it’s almost unmeasurable, but if the birds need antibiotics to protect their welfare, they must receive them. Our bird health and productivity is significantly better under this new approach – ultimately their welfare is the key to the whole system.”

St David’s has also recently launched a new company – Applied Bacterial Control – to work with farmers to reduce antibiotic usage across all livestock sectors.

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