Food Animal Health: No Antibiotics and No Hormones in Animal Feed

Recognizing the Full Potential of β-Carotene – The Importance of Non-Vitamin A Immune Support

Originally, to meet dietary vitamin A requirements, livestock feeds relied upon forages containing β-carotene, such as alfalfa and various grasses. However, because of losses of β-carotene during drying and storage, together with the advent of synthetic vitamin A, β-carotene-containing plant materials have been replaced in feeds by supplemental synthetic vitamin A.

The scientific literature reports that β-carotene has other activities unrelated to its vitamin A activity. The activities appear to be associated with supporting healthy immune function. Such non-vitamin A activities also have been seen for other carotenoids that are not sources of vitamin A. However, there is uncertainty over the reproducibility of non-vitamin A activities seen with β-carotene and the possibility that vitamin A could be involved.

Avivagen’s work with livestock has shown that non-vitamin A effects of β-carotene are real, quite apart from the effects of supplemental vitamin A. Trials conducted with poultry, swine and dairy cattle have demonstrated significant benefits to health and, consequently, overall performance, when the OxBC active in OxC-beta™ Livestock is incorporated into feed at low part-per-million levels (e.g., 2-8 g OxBC/tonne).

However, the actual source of immune support is not intact β-carotene but the β-carotene copolymer compound present in OxBC and as used in the form of OxC-beta™ Livestock. The non-vitamin A activity previously attributed to intact β-carotene is explained by an inadvertent and unpredictable amount of adventitious oxidation of the added β-carotene before or during ingestion producing β-carotene copolymer.  Furthermore, the copolymers are the source of small molecule breakdown compounds called norisoprenoids, several of which are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) flavoring agents for human use. There is evidence that the flavour and aroma properties of the norisoprenoid compounds contribute to increased feed intake by livestock.

Although only recently identified, the existence of β-carotene and other carotenoid copolymer compounds is widespread in many plant products (e.g., alfalfa, grasses, seaweeds). The compounds occur in widely varying amounts, depending on duration of exposure to air after harvest. β-Carotene-containing forages, for example, have been found to have levels of copolymer compounds that can be comparable to the original levels of β-carotene.

These findings indicate that the full potential of β-carotene is not captured by simply replacing this micronutrient with vitamin A. The clear, consistent beneficial effects obtained by adding a very small amount of OxBC to livestock feed via OxC-beta™ Livestock show that β-carotene in effect does indirectly contribute an additional, health-supporting function beyond vitamin A. The copolymer and norisoprenoid ingredients are essentially missing from most modern feeds, given the near-to-total absence of β-carotene.

Unlocking the full value of β-carotene requires the presence of both vitamin A and the copolymer and norisoprenoid mixture of compounds. Meeting the latter need can be achieved by including the synthetic form of OxBC or, less reliably and less conveniently, natural OxBC through dried plant products, such as alfalfa and grass hays, that have been found to contain significant levels of carotenoid copolymer compounds.

Reducing Non-Medicinal Antibiotic Use in Food Animal Production

Traditionally, antibiotics have been used to treat not only existing illness in animals but also to prevent potential disease and often to improve productivity by, for example, increasing the feed efficiency of animals. For poultry, swine, dairy herds, feedlot beef cattle and aquaculture, antibiotics have been a tool of choice for producers. The current global market for in-feed antibiotic use is estimated at over USD$3 billion.

Measures to phase out the non-medicinal use of antibiotics are being urged or implemented worldwide due to the risk the rise of antibiotic resistance poses to human health through loss of antibiotic efficacy against bacterial diseases. The overuse of antibiotics in animals for non-medicinal purposes, particularly for growth promotion and as a prophylactic, is considered to be contributing significantly to an alarming increase in the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Outbreaks of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in hospitals worldwide are just one example of the need to protect human health from antibiotic resistant “superbugs”.

In response to this impending global threat, at the consumer level retailers such as McDonald’s, Costco and Subway are now sourcing certain meat products raised without the use of antibiotics, and producers such as Cargill and Tyson are planning to reduce or eliminate the use of antibiotics in meat production.

Restrictions on the non-medicinal use of antibiotics in livestock are occurring in an increasing number of regions and countries. Sweden was first to ban the use of antibiotics for enhancing food production in 1986, with the EU following suit in 2006. In 2011 South Korea imposed a similar ban. Other developed countries such as the US, Canada and Australia are under increasing pressure to impose similar restrictions on livestock producers. In 2012, the FDA was ordered by a federal judge to take action to stop producers from mixing popular antibiotics into animal feed. This resulted in the FDA releasing guidelines requiring a prescription for antibiotics to be used only in sick animals and not for growth promotion. In 2013 the FDA announced it would request pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily stop labeling antibiotics necessary for use in humans as acceptable for enhanced food production in animals. This move effectively made it illegal for producers to use certain antibiotics for any reason other than the medically necessary treatment of disease. In 2016, the United Nations recognized the global rise of antimicrobial resistance as a threat to health and human development. A 2014 report commissioned by the United Kingdom government projects that by 2050 drug resistance will kill more people each year than cancer and cost the world as much as $100 trillion in lost economic output.

OxC-beta™ Livestock – a Safe and Effective Alternative to In-Feed Antibiotics

Oxc-Beta Poultry Trials

The demand for animal protein grows as world population continues to steadily increase. The need to improve efficiencies in animal production remains the top priority for producers and governments alike. Safe and effective alternatives to antibiotics are eagerly sought by an industry that needs to keep a high level of efficiency in order to simultaneously maintain profits and protect human health.

Through dietary support, OxC-beta™ Livestock supports optimal immune function and feed intake, allowing animals to reach their full growth potential under the challenging conditions of modern food production operations. Avivagen’s non-antibiotic, non-hormonal OxC-beta™ platform is a compelling alternative strategy to growth-promoting antibiotics. It thereby represents a major opportunity for the Company’s future growth and profitability.

OxC-beta™ Livestock Trials

Avivagen, in collaboration with academic, institutional, and industrial research partners continues to conduct applied research focused on further discovering and developing commercial applications for OxC-beta™ Livestock in multiple livestock species.

OxC-beta™ Livestock has been found to consistently support optimal health and productivity in trials conducted with swine, poultry and dairy cattle under typical production conditions.

The encouraging results of the first studies in swine and poultry in Canada prompted further, extensive, successful trials in Vietnam and Thailand. The Canadian results, subsequently corroborated and extended by the Vietnamese and Thai results, showed that significant improvements in animal performance can be achieved through providing supplemental OxBC to optimize diets. Subsequent studies with sows and young piglets have shown strong health benefits of supplementing diets with OxBC, ranging from significantly improved milk quality to substantially enhanced piglet health. In dairy cows, similarly impressive improvements in milk quality have been observed.

OxC-beta™ Livestock is available for commercial sale in the United States, Philippines, Taiwan, New Zealand, Thailand, Australia and Malaysia. Please click here for a quote or to place an order, or telephone our head office at 613-702-2908.