Meat quality is a result of genetics, feeding, the microbiome, and the handling of animals and meat

Different Pieces Of Meat Shutterstock

by Dr. Inge Heinzl, Editor EW Nutrition

Nowadays, nutrition is no longer about pure nutrient intake; enjoyment is also a priority. Consumers attach great importance to the high quality of food and, therefore, also of meat. The genetic selection for faster growth and feeding high-energy diets made meat production more efficient and shortened the raising period. However, this selection may sometimes also result in challenges to meat quality, such as worse water holding capacity, less marbling, less flavor, and reduced storage & processing properties.

The following article will provide detailed information about what meat quality is, how the gut microbiota influences it, and how we can increase meat quality by feeding and modulating the intestinal microflora.

Which factors can contribute to meat quality?

Meat quality is a complex term. On the one hand, meat quality covers measurable parameters such as the content of nutrients, moisture, microbial contamination, etc. On the other hand, and to no small extent, the consumers’ preferences are significant. Since meat today is often sold as cuts or in parts (e.g., broiler drumsticks, breast), processing also affects the quality of meat and meat products.

Physical characteristics are objective determinants of meat quality

Physical characteristics are parameters that can be measured. For meat, the following measurable parameters determine meat quality:

1.  Fat content and fatty acid composition influence tenderness and taste

Some years ago, the majority of consumers asked for completely lean meat, which, fortunately, has now changed. Fat is a flavor carrier. Especially intramuscular fat (marbling) melts during the preparation, making the meat tender, juicy, and taste good. Fat also transports fat-soluble vitamins.

A further criterion is the composition of the fat, the fatty acids. Geese fat, e.g., is known for its high content of oleic, linoleic, linolenic, and arachidonic acid, all of them derivates of the enzymatic denaturation of stearic acid (Okruszek, 2012).

One exception is cholesterol. Although belonging to the lipids and improving the sensory quality of meat, consumers prefer meat with low cholesterol content.

2.  Protein and amino acid content influence the meat value

The content and the composition of protein are important factors in meat quality. Protein is essential for constructing and maintaining organs and muscles and for the functionality of enzymes. The human body needs 20 different amino acids for these tasks, eleven of which it can manufacture by itself. Nine amino acids, however, must be provided by food and are called essential amino acids. Meat is a highly valuable protein source, rich in protein and essential amino acids. The protein quality, therefore, includes the chemical and amino acid score, the index for essential amino acids, and the biological value.

In addition to the pure nutritional value, amino acids contribute to flavor and taste. These flavor amino acids directly influence meat’s freshness and flavor and include threonine, alanine, serine, lysine, proline, hydroxyproline, glutamic acid (glutamate is important for the umami taste), aspartic acid, and arginine.

3.  Vitamins and trace elements are essential nutrients

Meat is a primary source of B vitamins (B1-B9) and, together with other animal products such as eggs and milk, the only provider of Vitamin B12. Vitamin A is available in the innards, vitamin D in the liver and fat fish, and vitamin K in the flesh.

The most important mineral compounds in meat are zinc, selenium, and iron. Humans can utilize the iron from animal sources particularly well.

4.  pH and speed of pH decline decide if the meat is suited for cooking

Since broiler chicken meat nowadays is usually consumed as cut-up pieces or processed products, the appearance at the meat counter or in the plastic box is essential for being sold. The color, seen as an apparent measurement of the freshness and quality of the meat, is influenced by the pH. The muscle pH post-mortem plays an essential role in meat quality. Due to the glycolytic process, the pH post-mortem is a good indication for evaluating physiological meat quality. A rapid pH decline post-mortem to 5.8-6.0 in most cases leads to pale, soft, and exudative (PSE) meat with reduced water retention (Džinić et al., 2015), whereas a high ultimate pH results in dark, firm, and dry (DFD) meat with poor storage quality (Allen et al., 1997)

5.  Nobody wants meat like leather

The shear force is a measure of the tenderness of the meat. To determine the shear force, the meat undergoes the process of cooking and chilling. Afterward, standardized meat blocks, with fibers running along the length of the sample, are put into the Warner-Bratzler system. The blade used simulates teeth, and the system measures the force necessary to tear the piece of meat.

6.  Microbial contamination is a no-go

The microbial contamination of the meat often occurs during the slaughter process. Let’s take a look at salmonella or campylobacter in poultry. The chickens take up salmonella with contaminated feed or water. Campylobacter is transmitted by infected wild birds, inadequately cleaned and disinfected cages, or contaminated water. The bacteria proliferate in the intestine. At slaughter, the intestine’s microorganisms can spread onto the meat intended for human consumption.

7.  High water holding capacity is necessary to have tender meat

The moisture content contributes to the meat’s juiciness and tenderness and improves its quality. If the meat loses its moisture, it gets tough, and quality decreases. Additionally, drip loss reduces the nutritional value of meat and its flavor.

8.  Fat oxidation makes meat rancid, and oxidative stress can cause myopathies in broiler breasts

Rancidity of meat occurs when the fat in the flesh gets oxidized. There are different signs of meat rancidity: bad odor, changed color, and a sticky, slimy texture. Poultry meat is considered more susceptible to the development of oxidative rancidity than red meat. This can be explained by its higher content of phospholipids, PUFAs, especially in the thighs. The breast meat, however, has a relatively low level of intramuscular fat (up to 2 %) and, additionally, myoglobin is a natural antioxidant.

But oxidative stress in broiler breasts – and this more and more happens due to a selection of always bigger breasts – can lead to muscle myopathies such as white stripes or wooden breasts, making the meat only usable for processed products.

Sensory meat quality addresses the human senses

Besides physical quality, the sensory and chemical characteristics are essential to meat’s economic importance. All attributes of meat that stimulate the human senses (vision, smell, taste, and touch) belong to the sensory quality. It, therefore, is more subjective and hard to determine. The most important features for the consumer include color (attractive or unattractive), texture (tenderness, juiciness, marbling, drip loss), and taste/ flavor (Thorslund et al., 2016).

The appearance is the first impression

Nowadays, meat is often sold as cuts lying in polystyrene or clear plastic trays, over-wrapped with transparent plastic films, so the appearance is paramount. The meat must show an attractive color. Muscle myopathies, such as the ones occurring in chickens, would not meet consumers’ needs.

How does the flavor of meat develop?

There is a reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids when meat is cooked (Mottram, 1998). This Maillard reaction, along with the degradation of vitamins, lipid oxidation, and their interaction, is responsible for the production of the volatile flavor components forming the characteristic aroma and flavor of cooked meat (MacLeod, 1994). Werkhoff et al. (1990) consider cysteine and methionine the most significant contributors to meat flavor development. One factor deteriorating this quality characteristic is lipid peroxidation, which turns the taste to rancid.

Some sensory characteristics are related to physical ones

The parameters of sensory meat quality can be partly explained by measurable parameters. Water retention, e.g., influences the juiciness of the meat. The palatability increases with higher intramuscular fat or marbling (Stewart et al., 2021), the initial pH and the speed of decline decide if the flesh will be pale, soft, and exudative or normal, and lipid peroxidation is the leading cause of a decrease in meat quality (Pereira & Abreu, 2018).

Processing quality

For the processing quality, muscle structure, chemical ingredient interactions, and muscle post-mortem changes are decisive (Berri, 2000).

Does the microbiome influence the meat quality?

The gastrointestinal tract of monogastric animals disposes of a microbiome of primarily bacteria, mainly anaerobic Gram-positive ones (Richards et al., 2005). With its complex microbial community, the digestive tract is responsible for digesting feed and absorbing nutrients, but also for eliminating pathogens and developing immunity. Gut microbiotas play an essential role in digestion, are decisive concerning the synthesis of fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins, and, therefore, influence meat quality (Chen, 2022).

Intestinal microbiotas vary by species/breeds and age (Ma et al., 2022; Sun et al., 2018), and so does meat quality. For example, Duroc pigs with meat of high tenderness, good flavor, and excellent tastiness show different microbiota than other breeds (Xiao, 2017). Zhao et al.(2022) examined high- and low-fat Jinhua pigs, with the high-fat pigs showing more increased backfat thickness but also a higher fat content in the longissimus dorsi. They found low-fat pigs showed a higher abundance of Prevotella and Bacteroides, Ruminococcus sp. AF12-5, Faecalibacterium sp.OFO4-11AC und Oscillibacter sp. CAG:155, which are all involved in fiber fermentation and butyrate production. The high-fat animals showed a higher abundance of Firmicutes and Tenericutes, indicating that they are responsible for higher fat production of the organism in general but also a better fat disposition in the flesh. Lei et al. (2022) showed that abdominal fat was positively correlated with the occurrence of Lachnochlostridium and Christensenelleceae.

The intestinal microbiota-muscle axis enables us to improve meat quality by controlling intestinal microbiota (Lei, 2022). However, to develop strategies to enhance the quality of meat, understanding the composition of the microbiota, the functions of the key bacteria, and the interaction between the host and microbiota is of utmost importance (Chen et al., 2022).

Different factors influence the microbiome

Apart from that microbiotas are different in different breeds, they are additionally influenced by diseases, feeding (diets, medical treatments with, e.g., antibiotics), and the environment (climate, geographical position). This could be shown by different trials. The genetic influence on microbiota was impressively documented by Goodrich et al. (2014), who detected that the microbiomes of monozygotic twins differ less than the ones of dizygotic twins. Lei et al. (2022) compared the microbiota of two broiler breeds (Arbor Acres and Beijing-You, the last one with a higher abdominal fat rate) and found remarkable differences in their microbiota composition. When raising them in the same environment and with the same feed, the microbiotas became similar. Zhou et al. (2016) contrasted the cecal microbiota of five Tibetan chickens from five different geographic regions with Lohmann egg-laying hens and Daheng broiler chickens. Besides seeing a difference between the breeds, slightly distinct microbiota between the regions could also be noticed.

The intestinal microbiome can actively be changed by

  • promoting the wanted microbes by feeding the appropriate nutrients (e.g., prebiotics)
  • reducing the harmful ones by fighting them, for example, with organic acids or phytomolecules
  • directly applying probiotics and adding, therefore, desired microbes to the microbiome.

An increase in the abundance of Lactobacillus and Succiniclasticum could be achieved in pigs by feeding them a fermented diet, and Mitsuokella and Erysipelotrichaceae proliferated by adding a probiotic containing B. subtilis and E. faecalis to the diet (Wang et al., 2022).

How to change the intestinal microbiome to improve meat quality?

Before changing the microbiome, we must know which microbes are “responsible” for which characteristics. However, the microbiotas do not act individually but as consortia. The following table shows a selection of bacteria that, besides supporting the gut and its functions, influence meat quality in some way.

Metabolites Producing bacteria Biological functions and effects on pigs
Short-chain fatty acids (acetate, butyrate, and propionate) Ruminococcaceae











Regulate lipid metabolism

Improve meat quality

Lactate Lactic acid bacteria


Important metabolite for cross-feeding of SCFA-producing microbiota
Bile acids (primary and secondary bile acids) Clostridium species




Regulate lipid metabolism
Ammonia Amino acid fermenting commensals


By-product of amino acid fermentation

Inhibits short-chain fatty acid oxidation

B Vitamins and vitamin K Bacteroides


Serve as coenzymes in neurological processes (B vitamins)

• Essential vitamin for proper blood clotting (vitamin K)

Table 1: Bacteria influencing meat quality (according to Vasquez et al., 2022)

Fat for meat quality is intramuscular fat

If we talk about increasing fat to improve meat quality, we talk about increasing intramuscular fat or marbling, not depot fat. The fat in meat-producing animals is mostly a combination of triglycerides from the diet and fatty acids synthesized. Fat deposition and composition in non-ruminants reflect the fatty acid composition of the diet but are also closely related to the design of the microbiome; short-chain fatty acids in monogastric, e.g., are exclusively produced by the gut microbiome (Dinh et al., 2021; Vasquez et al., 2022). Intramuscular fat is mainly made of triglycerides but also disposes of phospholipids associated with proteins, such as lipoproteins or proteolipids, influencing meat flavor. The fermentation of indigestible polysaccharides or amino acids results in short-chain or branched-chain fatty acids, respectively. Lactate, produced by lactic acid bacteria, is utilized by SCFA-producing microbiota. An imbalance in the microbiome fosters lipid deposition, as shown by Kallus and Brandt (2012), who found a higher proportion of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes (50% higher) in obese mice than in lean ones. In a trial described by Zhou et al. (2016), tiny Tibetian chickens with a low percentage of abdominal fat were compared to two breeds (Lohmann layers and Daheng broilers) being large and with a high percentage of abdominal fat. The Tibetan chickens showed a two to four-fold higher abundance of Christensenellacea in the cecal microbiome. Christensenellas belong to the bacterial strain of firmicutes. They are linked to slimness in human nutrition, which was already proven by Goodrich et al. (2014) and is the contrary stated by Lei et al. (2022).

Another example was provided by Wen et al. (2023). They compared two broiler enterotypes distinguished by Clostridia vadinB60 and Rikenellaceae_RC9_gut and saw that the type with an abundance of Clostridia_vadinBB60 showed higher intramuscular fat content but also more subcutaneous fat tissue. The scientists also found another bacterium especially responsible for intramuscular fat: A lower plethora of Clostridia vadimBE97 resulted in a higher intramuscular fat content in breast and thigh muscles but not adipose tissues. Similar results were achieved in a trial with pigs and mice: Jinhua pigs showed a significantly higher level of intramuscular fat than Landrace pigs. When transplanting the fecal microbiota of the two breeds in mice, the mice showed similar characteristics in fat metabolism as their donors of feces (Wu et al., 2021).

According to several studies (e.g., Chen et al., 2008; Liu et al., 2019), intramuscular fat in chicken has a low heritability but may be controlled by feeding up to a certain extent. In pigs, Lo et al. (1992) and Ding et al. (2019) found a moderate to low (0.16 – 0.23) heritability for intramuscular fat, but Cabling et al. (2015) calculated a heritability of 0.79 for the marbling score.

At least, especially the composition of fatty acids can easily be changed in monogastric (Aaslyng and Meinert, 2017). Zou et al. (2017) examined the effect of Lactobacillus brevis and tea polyphenol, each alone or combining both. Lactobacillus is probably involved in turning complex carbohydrates into metabolites lactose and ethanol, but also acetic acid and SCFA. SCFAs are mainly produced by Saccharolytic and anaerobic microbiota, aiding in the degradation of carbohydrates the host cannot digest (e.g., cellulose or resistant polysaccharides into monomeric and dimeric sugars and fermenting them subsequently into short-chain fatty acids). Including fibers and various oligosaccharides was shown to increase the gut microbiome’s fermentation capacity for producing short-chain fatty acids.

In a trial conducted by Jiao et al. (2020), they showed that SCFAs applied in the ileum modulate lipid metabolism and lead to higher meat quality in growing pigs. A plant polyphenol was used by Yu et al. (2021). The added resveratrol, a plant polyphenol in grapes and grape products, to the diet of Peking ducks and could significantly increase intramuscular fat.

Oxidation of lipids and proteins must be prevented

The composition of the fatty acids and occurring oxidative stress in adipose and muscle tissue influences or impacts meat quality in farm animals (Chen et al., 2022). During the last few years, the demand for healthier animal products containing higher levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids has increased. Consequently, the risk of lipoperoxidation has risen (Serra et al., 2021). Solutions are needed to counteract this deterioration of meat quality. As can be seen in table 1, ammonia produced by amino acid-fermenting commensals and Helicobacter inhibits the oxidation of SCFAs. Ma et al. (2022) changed the microbiome of sows by feeding a probiotic from mating till day 21 of lactation and achieved a decreased level of MDA, a sign of reduced oxidative stress. Similar results were achieved by He et al. (2022). In their trial, the supplementation of 200 mg yeast ß-glucan/kg of feed significantly decreased the abundance of the phylum WPS-2 as well as markedly increased catalase, superoxide dismutase (both p<0.05) and the total antioxidant activity (p<0.01) in skeletal muscle. Another approach was done by Wu et al. (2020) in broilers. They applied glucose oxidases (GOD) produced by Aspergillus niger and Penicillium amagasakiense. Both enzymes did not disturb but improved beneficial bacteria and microbiota. The GOD produced by A. niger reduced the content of malondialdehyde in the plasma.

Another alternative is antioxidant extracts from plants (Džinić, 2015). As consumers nowadays bet more on natural products, they would be good candidates. They are considered safe and, therefore, well-accepted by consumers and have beneficial effects on animal health, welfare, and production performance.

Hazrati et al. (2020) showed in a trial that the essential oils of ajwain and dill decreased the concentration of malondialdehyde (MDA) in quails’ breast meat and, therefore, lipid peroxidation and reduced cooking loss. The antioxidant effects of thymol and carvacrol were shown by Luna et al. (2010). The group receiving the essential oils showed lower TBARS in the thigh samples than the control group but similar TBARS to the butylated hydroxytoluene-provided group.

Protein quality is a question of essential amino acids

Protein with a high content of essential amino acids is one of the most critical components of meat. Alfaig et al. (2014) tested probiotics and thyme essential oil in broilers. They found out that the content of EAAs in breast and thigh muscles numerically increased gradually from the control over the probiotic and a combination of a probiotic up to the thyme essential oil group. A significant (p<0.05) increase in all tested amino acids (arginine, cysteine, phenylalanine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, threonine, and valine) could be observed in the samples of the breast and the thigh muscles when comparing the thyme essential oil group with the control. Zou et al. (2017) provided similar results, showing a significant increase in leucine and glutamic acid as well as a numerical increase in lysin, valine, methionine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, threonine, asparagine, alanine, glycin, serin, and proline through the addition of a combination of Lactobacillus brevis and tea polyphenols. They also determined an increase in the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus and Bacteroides. The experimental results led them to the assumption that both additives may also improve the taste of meat by increasing some of the essential and delicate flavors produced by amino acids.

Tenderness is closely related to drip loss

The already mentioned trial conducted by Lei et al. (2022) with two different broiler breeds (Arbor Acres and Beijing-You) having different microbiota showed a negative correlation between drip loss and the abundance of Lachnochlostridium. They remodeled the Arbor Acres’ microbiome by applying a bacterial suspension derived from the Beijing-You breed and decreased drip loss in their meat. He et al. (2022) changed the microbiome by adding yeast ß-glucan to the diet of finisher pigs. They achieved a reduced cooking loss (linear, p<0.05) and a lower drip loss (p<0.05), together indicating a better water-holding capacity, as well as a decreased lactate content. The addition of a multi-species probiotic to the diet of finishing pigs tended to result in lower cooking and drip loss(p<0.1) besides modulating the intestinal flora (higher lactobacilli and lower E. coli counts in the feces) (Balasubramanian et al., 2017) and the inclusion of Lactobacillus brevis and tea polyphenol individually or in a synergistic combination improved water holding capacity and decreased drip loss Zou et al. (2017).

Puvača et al. (2019) observed the lowest drip-loss values in breast meat and thigh with drumstick through feeding chickens 0.5 g or 1.0 g of hot red pepper per 100 g of feed, respectively, in the grower and finisher phase. The feeding of resveratrol reduced drip loss of Peking ducks’ leg muscles. SCFA infused into the ileum enlarged the longissimus dorsi area and alleviated drip loss (Jiao et al, 2021).

The decrease and increase of the pH after slaughtering determines meat quality

The pH in the muscles of a living animal is about 7.2. With slaughtering and bleeding, the energy supply of the muscles is interrupted. The stored glycogen gets degraded to lactic acid, lowering the pH. Usually, the lowest pH value of 5.4-5.7 in meat is reached after 18 to 24 hours. Afterward, it starts to rise again.

In stressed animals, the stress hormones adrenalin and noradrenalin provoke a rushly occurring and, due to a lack of oxygen, anaerobic metabolism and the quick production of lactic acid. This too rapid decrease in pH leads to the denaturation of proteins in the muscle cells and reduced water-holding capacity. The result is PSE (pale, soft, and exudative) meat.

On the contrary, DFD meat (dark, firm, and dry) occurs if the glycogen reserves, due to challenges, are already used up, and the lactic acid production is insufficient. Especially PSE meat is closely related to breeds – some are more susceptible to stress, others less. However, some trials show that influencing pH in meat is possible to a certain extent.

He et al., 2022 added yeast ß-glucan to the diets of finishing pigs and a higher pH45 min (linear and quadratic, p<0.01) and a higher redness (a*; linear, p<0.05) of the meat. Wu et al. (2020) achieved a significantly increased pH24h through the addition of Glucose oxidase produced by Aspergillus niger.

Sensory characteristics are very subjective

In general, the sensory characteristics of meat are seen very individually. Some prefer lean, others fatty meat, some like meat with a characteristic taste, and others with a neutral. However, the typical meat taste of umami is partly determined by the nucleotide inosine monophosphate (IMP), which is regarded as an essential index for evaluating meat flavor and the acceptability of meat products. IMP provides about 40-fold higher umami taste than sodium glutamate (Huang et al. 2022).IMP is the organophosphate of inosin. Inosine, however, according to Kroemer and Zitvogel (2020), is produced by Bifidobacterium pseudolongum, which possibly can be controlled by feeding. Sun et al. (2018) compared Caoke and Partridge Shank chickens and divided them into free-range and cage groups. They found out that, except for acids, the amounts of flavor components were higher in the free-range than in the cage groups. The two housing systems also modified the microbiota, and Sun et al. took it as an indication that meat flavor, as well as the composition and diversity of gut microbiota, are closely associated with the housing systems. Fu et al. (2023) examined the addition of a mixture containing Pulsatilla, Gentian, and Rhizoma coptidis and a mixture with Codonopsis pilosula, Atractylodes, Poria cocos, and Licorice to the feed of Hungarian white geese. They saw that in both groups, the total amino acid levels, especially Glu, Lys, and Asp, increased, with, according to Liu et al. (2018), Glu and Asp directly affecting meat’s freshness and flavor. Yu et al. (2021) achieved similar results by adding resveratrol to the diet of Peking ducks. The addition of the herbs additionally led to a higher Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio and an increased level of lactobacilli (Fu et al., 2023).

How can EW Nutrition’s feed additives help to improve meat quality?

Meat quality is influenced by the microbiome. So, feed additives that stabilize the microbiome or promote certain beneficial bacterial strains are an opportunity.

Ventar D modulates the microbiome

Ventar D balances the microbiome by promoting beneficial bacteria such as lactobacilli and fighting harmful ones such as Clostridia, E. coli, and Salmonella. (Heinzl, 2022). In another trial with broilers, the addition of Ventar D to all feeds (100 g/t) showed an increase in short-chain fatty acids in the intestine:

Figure Short Chain Fatty AcidsFigure 1: Short-chain fatty acids in the cecum of broilers

Santoquin countersteers oxidation

Another helpful product category is antioxidants. They can prevent the oxidation of lipids and proteins. For this purpose, EW Nutrition offers Santoquin M6*, a product tested by Kuttapan et al. (2021). Santoquin M6 was tested concerning its ability to minimize the oxidative damage caused by feeding oxidized fat. A control group receiving oxidized fat in feed was compared to one receiving oxidized fat plus 188 ppm Santoquin M6 (≙125 ppm ethoxyquin). The main parameters for this study were TBARS in the breast muscle, the incidence of wooden breast, and the live weight on day 48.

Results indicated that the inclusion of Santoquin M6 reduced the production of TBARS in the breast muscles, demonstrating a lower level of oxidative stress in the breast muscles.

Figure Breast Muscle TBARSFigure 2: Thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) in broiler breast muscles. TBARS are formed as a by-product of lipid peroxidation.

Additionally, it reduced the incidence of severe woody breasts (Score 3) by almost half and helped mitigate the impact of breast muscle degradation due to increased oxidative stress.

Figure Incidence Of Wooden BreastFigure 3: Incidence of wooden breast in broilers

*Usage of ethoxyquin is dependent on country regulations.

Feed hygiene with Acidomix products minimizes harmful pathogens

The Acidomix product line offers liquid, powdery, and micro-granulated products to be added to feed and water. The organic acids in Acidomix directly act against pathogens in the feed and the water and help keep the intestinal flora in balance.

A trial evaluating the effect of different Acidomix products against diverse pathogens showed lower MICs for most Acidomix products than for single organic acids. The trial was conducted with decreasing concentrations of the Acidomix products (2 – 0.015625 %) and 105 CFU of the respective microorganisms (microtiter plates; 50 µl bacterial solution and 50 µl diluted product).

Figure Minimum Inhibiting Concentration
Feeding is the one side, slaughtering the other one

With feeding, the microbiota and some meat characteristics can be changed; however, the last step, handling the animals before and the meat after slaughtering also significantly contributes to a good quality of meat. Stress due to the transport and the slaughterhouse atmosphere, combined with stress-sensible breeds, can lead to PSE meat. Incorrect handling at the slaughterhouse can lead to meat contaminated with pathogens.

Combining feeding measures with professional and calm handling of the animals is the best strategy to achieve high-quality meat.



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DDGS and oxidative damage


Distiller’s dried grains are produced by condensing and drying the stillage left over after starch-fermentation of corn for ethanol production. Solubles left over from the process are usually added before drying, resulting in the DDGS product that has become more and more commonplace in poultry feed formulations.
Historically, this ingredient was used in ruminant diets, as the nutrient content and quality of DDGS is considered to be somewhat variable – not only between, but also within production facilities. However, recent improvements in processing technologies and quality control systems have resulted in more consistent, higher-quality feed products.
Furthermore, newer fractionation processes continue to be implemented by some ethanol plants that are capable of fractioning out protein, fiber and oil portions of the grain, either pre- or post-fermentation, providing a wide variety of co-products which will result from the blending of these fraction streams.

Why is there more danger of oxidative damage today?

A decade ago, typical poultry diets consisted of far fewer feed ingredients than some of today’s rations. Additionally, the use of further-processed by-product meals and fats has also increased due to economic constraints associated with some raw ingredients.
This has created a diet which is highly prone to oxidative degeneration due to the higher rate of thermal, and in some cases, chemical processing of feed ingredients such as DDGS.

Currently, it is not uncommon to see DDGS inclusion rates between 5 and 12% in broiler and turkey diets, depending on bird age and feed prices.
One factor to consider when utilizing DDGS at such levels is the increase in polyunsaturated fatty acid content relative to saturated fatty acids that results from the addition of the 18:2, n-6 -rich corn oil which comprises approximately 10% of most DDGS.
Despite the fact that most modern rations have decreased the total lipid content in recent years, overall increases in the use of vegetable-based by-products invariably change the fatty acid profile of the diet to one which contains higher levels of polyunsaturated fats relative to saturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are highly sensitive to oxidation during storage and are likely to turn rancid at high environmental temperatures. The oxidation process involves the generation of fatty acid free radicals, which then react with molecular oxygen to produce peroxide free radicals. This results in a chemical change to the fatty acid which decreases nutrient value and often produces undesirable odor.

…And that’s why risk management of oxidative damage is essential

Oxidative damage in feeds entails economic losses because of the negative impact on feed quality through the transformation of the lipid fraction of feed ingredients, decreased animal growth rate and performance, and decreased meat quality parameters, such as nutritional value and shelf-life. Therefore, lipid stability in feed is important, particularly with regard to the oxidative rancidity that occurs in high-fat ingredients, and prevention and management of oxidative stress is critical.


No revision of the Feed Additives law, says the European Commission


The authorization and marketing of feed additives in the European Union is currently governed by Feed Additives Regulation (EC) No 1831/2003, which came into effect in 2004. In 2021, the European Commission formalized an initiative to revise it, stating as reasons both the focus brought by the Farm to Fork Strategy, as well as inherent complexities in phrasing, process, and more. Representatives of the EC’s responsible unit, DG SANTE Unit G5, have now confirmed to EW Nutrition that, following consultations and analysis, the revision of the legislation on the authorisation of feed additives will not happen under the current Commission’s mandate.

The revision was initially deemed necessary on several grounds:

  • Not enough focus on sustainable animal farming
  • Lack of flexibility in promoting technical and scientific innovation
  • A lengthy authorization process
  • Unnecessary administrative burden
  • Ineffective imports control leading to unfair competition between EU and non-EU operators
  • Dependency on imports from third countries for some additives (e.g., vitamins)
  • Restrictions on the circulation of feed additives only intended for export
  • Insufficient legal clarity and consistency for a few aspects of the Regulation, e.g. use of certain additives in drinking water or labelling provisions for worker safety provisions in various complementary but unclear Regulations
  • Extensive, unnecessary labeling regulations that create physical and administrative burdens


Near the end of the two-year assessment process, however, the response of European governmental, supra-national, and non-governmental bodies appears to have been lukewarm. Overall, the conclusion of the EC unit overseeing the process was that “while a review of the framework would be useful, it does not appear necessary, considering the possibilities already granted by the existing legal framework.” In other words, applicants will have to use the existing mechanisms for applications, with no prospect for change in the near future.

Other strategies and regulations have also fallen through the cracks. For instance, the EU Animal Health Strategy 2007-2013 has not been updated in 10 years and there are no plans to renew the initiative. This is likely because the Green Deal and the flurry of new or upcoming regulations related to it are expected to supplant the framework for protein production in the European Union.

As the mandate of the current EC ends in 2024, there is a slim chance that the feed additive authorization process might be made less cumbersome once a new commission takes over.

From basketball to feed milling: a common tactic for winning in 2023

header basketball court

By Ivan Ilic, Global Manager Technical Product Applications, EW Nutrition


It has been a rough couple of years for the world. And from climate change to war, all negative impacts have reverberated down to feed millers.

  • Climate change affected raw material prices and availability
  • COVID-19 impacted shipping costs and manpower
  • War impacted energy prices and raw material availability

And that´s without even considering market trends toward sustainability, shifting resources to biofuel, and so on.

With all these challenges going on, working to improve feed mill efficiency has lately kept me extremely busy. I´ve been traveling and talking to customers around the world about SurfAce and how we bring benefits in energy cost savings, process efficiency, moisture optimization, and so on. But when I am at home, I take a walk every evening in the woods near my house. I often use the time to reflect on personal and professional issues.

At some point, I found myself thinking about the European Basketball Championship (in Serbia, basketball is a national sport). Last year, the head coach of the Serbian national team decided not to call one of our best players to the national team. Lots of people criticized this decision, as for the past few years he had been one of the top players in Europe.

So, I started to think about choosing a team over a star. How do you balance your strong points to make sure of a win? (Yes, there is a connection to feed mills. I´m getting there.)

Winning through strategy rather than showmanship

Bozidar Maljkovic is a Serbian legend, who trained several winning teams, among which the European champion team Limoges. This was a French team he picked up mid-season, with moderate resources on the basketball court as well as outside it. The entire 1993 Euro season, Maljkovic chose to play extreme defense and score a very low number of points. In the finals, he played against a big favorite: Benneton Treviso, a wealthier team that, at that time, had a roster of excellent players. He won the game using the same strategy: tight defense, highly tactical game. A championship won not on artistic merit but on strategy.

After that final game, his good friend and well-known coach of Treviso, Petar Skansi, accused Maljkovic that he was destroying the basketball game with that tactic. Maljkovic answered to Skansi in more or less these words: you give me Kukoc (Treviso´s best player) and I´ll win on a different tactic.

When I remembered this episode during my walk, I suddenly saw a pattern in basketball coaching and feedmill management.

Know your objective

As in basketball, in feed milling you must be clear about your target, your main objective. In Maljkovic´s case, the objective was not to make basketball games attractive for the public, just as it was not to his objective to showcase his players. His target was to win the Euro title.

The same goes for the feed mill. Sure, you have several objectives, but there must be a main one. Say your primary objective is to maximize profit. If that is the case, then the next step is to be sure of what the market demands. This way you can avoid spending money for added value on something that the market is unwilling to pay for.

Know your players

Once you know what outcome you can deliver and what the market is prepared to pay for, the next step is analytics.

You must dive deep into your feed mill and get all the data on your “players”: raw materials, technology, people, machines, parameters, logistics etc. You must understand the current status and capabilities of your players, with advantages and limitations. Your job is to use them to the best of their capabilities in order to achieve your objective.

Know the interconnections between players

Just as every player depends on others, also feed mill processes are related and interdependent. If you want to have fine grinding, you will achieve better PDI, but it will cost more energy in milling and the result may not be as good for some categories of animals. Is this efficient and acceptable? It all depends on your main objective.

Balancing between pros and cons and walking that thin line is what efficiency means. With these challenges looming large, finding that balance will be the main task in feed milling.

Be curious

“Be curious” is one of the values of our company, but I would prompt anyone to adopt it. Play with parameters, support operators to do it, and find the point that yields maximum return for your specific objective.

Literature without your own data is fiction. In literature you can find data that says, for instance, that for every 15°C you have 1% more moisture. You can also find literature that says you have 1% more moisture for every 12°C or every 17°C. But what is the ratio in your feedmill? If you do not know, you are still not diving deep enough.

You need to figure out the interconnected factors in your own production. If you calculate by the books and official recommendations, you are adjusting work in some other feed mill, not yours. Yes: guidance is very important to understand relations and to be aware of margins. But inside those margins, you have to find your own numbers.

Find the least opportunity cost

Very often I see goals that are rebels without a cause. Take PDI, for instance. PDI is an important value, no doubt. It has been shown that better PDI correlates with better FCR etc.

However, when you set a target value for PDI you need to be sure that future investment in increasing PDI is relevant to your customers – and that they are willing to pay for that. Even if you are an integrator, first do the math on the benefits and the cost. With rising costs not just for you but also for your end customers, make sure the market can support the premium you are struggling to deliver. If you are sure, then find the most adequate way to win it. You can increase your PDI in lots of different ways, so you will need to calculate the least opportunity cost.

Production is a game of interdependencies. So is any team sport, in fact. When a coach makes a decision to put a star player in the spotlight, there may be a show but not always a win.

In a feed mill, the end game is always played around winning. It is a complex tactic of balancing all players and getting the most in your very specific circumstances. Our job is to identify and maximize these „synergies” in each specific case – and I can confirm that each case is different. In the end, Kukoc may have played the same game in Jugoplastika or Treviso, but no two feed mills are quite the same; even in same feed mill, no two lines will be adjusted the same way.

Masked mycotoxins – particularly dangerous for dairy cows


By Si-Trung Tran, SEAP Regional Technical Manager, EW Nutrition

Marisabel Caballero, Global Technical Manager Poultry, EW Nutrition, and
Inge Heinzl, Editor, EW Nutrition

Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites of fungi, commonly found as contaminants in agricultural products. In some cases, these compounds are used in medicine or industry, such as penicillin and patulin. In most cases, however, they are considered xenobiotics that are toxic to animals and humans, causing the disease collectively known as mycotoxicosis. The adverse effects of mycotoxins on human and animal health have been documented in many publications. Aflatoxins (AFs) and deoxynivalenol (DON, vomitoxin) are amongst the most critical mycotoxins affecting milk production and -quality.

Aflatoxins do not only affect cows

Aflatoxins (AFs) are highly oxygenated, heterocyclic difuranocoumarin compounds produced by Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. They colonize crops, including many staple foods and feed ingredients. Within a group of over 20 AFs and derivatives, aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), B2, G1, and G2 are the most important naturally occurring compounds.

Among the aflatoxins, AFB1 is the most widespread and most toxic to humans and animals. Concern about mycotoxin contamination in dairy products began in the 1960s with the first reported cases of contamination by aflatoxin M1 (AFM1), a metabolite of AFB1 formed in the liver of animals and excreted in the milk.

There is ample evidence that lactating cows exhibit a significant reduction in feed efficiency and milk yield within a few days of consuming aflatoxin-contaminated feed. At the cellular level, aflatoxins cause degranulation of endoplasmic membranes, loss of ribosomes from the endoplasmic reticulum, loss of nuclear chromatin material, and altered nuclear shapes. The liver, as the organ mainly dealing with the decontamination of the organism, gets damaged, and performance drops. Immune cells are also affected, reducing immune competence and vaccination success (Arnold and Gaskill, 2023).

DON reduces cows’ performance

Another mycotoxin that can also reduce milk quality and affect metabolic parameters, as well as the immune function of dairy cows, is DON. DON is produced by different fungi of the Fusarium genus that infect plants. DON synthesis is associated with rainy weather from crop flowering to harvest. Whitlow and co-workers (1994) reported the association between DON and poor performance in dairy herds and showed decreased milk production in dairy cows fed 2.5 mg DON/kg. However, in cows fed 6 to 12 mg DON/kg dry matter for 10 weeks, no DON or its metabolite DOM-1 residues were detected in milk.

Masked mycotoxins hide themselves during analysis

Plants suffering from fungal infestations and thus confronted with mycotoxins convert the harmful forms of mycotoxins into less harmful or harmless ones for themselves by conjugation to sulfates, organic acids, or sugars. Conjugated mycotoxins cannot always be detected by standard analytical methods. However, in animals, these forms can be released and transformed into parent compounds by enzymes and microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, the feed may show a concentration of mycotoxins that is still below the limit value, but in the animal, this concentration is suddenly much higher. In dairy cows, the release of free mycotoxins from conjugates during digestion may play an important role in understanding the silent effects of mycotoxins.

Fusarium toxins, in particular, frequently occur in this “masked form”. They represent a serious health risk for animals and humans.

Aflatoxins first show up in the milk

Masked aflatoxins may also play a role in total aflatoxin contamination of feed materials. Research has harvested little information on masked aflatoxins that may be present in TMR ingredients. So far, metabolites such as Aflatoxin M2 have been identified (Righetti, 2021), which may reappear later in milk as AFM1.

DON-related symptoms without DON?

Sometimes, animals show DON-related symptoms, with low levels detected in the feed or raw materials. Besides sampling errors, this enigma could be due to conjugated or masked DON, which is structurally altered DON bound to various compounds such as glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids. These compounds escape conventional feed analysis techniques because of their modified chemical properties but can be released as their toxic precursors after acid hydrolysis.

Masked DON was first described in 1984 by Young and co-workers, who found that the DON content of yeast-fermented foods was higher than that of the contaminated wheat flour used in their production. The most plausible reason for this apparent increase was that the toxin from the wheat had been converted to a compound other than DON, which could be converted back to DON under certain conditions. Since this report, there has been much interest in conjugated or masked DON.

Silage: masked DON is a challenge for dairy producers

Silage is an essential feed for dairy cows, supporting milk production. Most silage is made from corn and other grains. The whole green plant is used, which can be infected by fungi. Since infection of corn with Fusarium spp. and subsequent DON contamination is usually a major problem in the field worldwide, a relatively high occurrence of this toxin in silage must be expected. The ensiling process may reduce the amount of Fusarium fungi, but the DON formed before ensiling is very stable.

Corn Silage

Silage samples show DON levels of concern

It is reasonable to assume that the DON biosynthesized by the fungi was metabolized by the plants to a new compound and thus masked DON. Under ensiling conditions, masked DON can be hydrolyzed, producing free DON again. Therefore, the level of free DON in the silage may not reflect the concentration measured in the plants before ensiling.

A study analyzed 50 silage samples from different farms in Ontario, Canada. Free DON was found in all samples, with levels ranging from 0.38 to 1.72 µg/g silage (unpublished data). Eighty-six percent of the samples contained DON at concentrations higher than 0.5 µg/g. Together with masked DON, it poses a potential threat to dairy cattle.

Specific hydrolysis conditions allow detection

However, in the natural ensiling process, the conditions for hydrolysis of masked DON are not optimal. The conditions that allow improved analysis of masked DON were recently described. This method detected masked DON in 32 of 50 silage samples (64%) along with free DON, increasing DON concentration by 23% in some cases (unpublished data).

Mycotoxins impact humans and animals

Aflatoxins, as well as DON, have adverse effects. In the case of DON, the impact on the animal is significant; in the case of aflatoxin, the possible long-term effects on humans are of higher relevance.

DON has more adverse effects on the animal and its performance

Unlike AFs, DON may be found in milk at low or trace concentrations. It is more associated with negative effects in the animal, altered rumen fermentation, and reduced flow of usable protein into the duodenum. For example, milk fat content was significantly reduced when cows were fed 6 µg DON/kg. However, the presence of DON also indicates that the feed probably contains other mycotoxins, such as zearalenone (ZEA) (estrogenic mycotoxin) and fusaric acid (pharmacologically active compound). All these mycotoxins may interact to cause symptoms that are different or more severe than expected, considering their individual effects. DON and related compounds also have immunosuppressive effects, resulting in increased somatic cell counts in milk. The U.S. FDA has established an action level for DON in wheat and wheat-derived products intended for cows, which is 5µg DON/g feed and the contaminated ingredient must not exceed 40% of the ration.

Aflatoxins decrease milk quality and pose a risk to humans

Aflatoxins are poorly degraded in the rumen, with aflatoxicol being the main metabolite that can be reconverted to AFB1. Most AFs are absorbed and extensively metabolized/hydrolyzed by enzymes found mainly in the liver. This results in the formation of AFM1, a part of which is conjugated to glucuronic acid and subsequently excreted in the bile. The other part enters the systemic circulation. It is either excreted in urine or milk. AFM1 appears within 12-48 hours after ingestion in cow’s milk. The excreted amount of AFM1 in milk from dairy cows usually ranges from 0.17% to 3% of the ingested AFB1. However, this carryover rate may vary from day to day and from one milking to the next in individual animals, as it is influenced by various factors, such as feeding regime, health status, individual biotransformation capacity, and, of course, by actual milk production. Carryover rates of up to 6.2% have been reported in high-yielding dairy cows producing up to 40 liters of milk per day.

In various experiments, AFM1 showed both carcinogenic and immunosuppressive effects. Accordingly, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified AFM1 as being in Group 2B and, thus, possibly carcinogenic in humans. The action level of 0.50 ppb and 0.05 ppb for AFM1 in milk is strictly adhered to by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), respectively.

Trials show the high adsorption capacity of Solis Max

A trial was conducted at an independent laboratory located in Spain. The evaluation of the performance of Solis Max was executed with the following inclusion levels:

  • 0.10% equivalent to 1.0 kg of Solis Max per ton of feed
  • 0.20% equivalent to 2.0 kg of Solis Max per ton of feed

A phosphate buffer solution at pH 7 was prepared for the trial to simulate rumen conditions. Each mycotoxin was tested separately, preparing solutions with known contamination (final concentration described in the table below). The contaminated solutions were divided into 3 parts: A positive control, 0.10% Solis Max and 0.20% Solis Max. All samples were incubated at 41°C for 1 hour, centrifuged, and the supernatant was analyzed for the mycotoxin added to determine the binding efficacy. All analyses were carried out by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with standard detectors.

Mycotoxin Contamination Level (ppb)
Aflatoxin B1 800
DON 800
Fumonisin B1 2000
ZEA 1200

The higher concentration of Solis max showed a higher adsorption rate for most mycotoxins. The high dose of Solis Max adsorbed 99% of the AFB1 contamination. In the case of DON, more than 70% was bound. For fumonisin B1 and zearalenone, Solis max showed excellent binding rates of 87.7% and 78.9%, respectively (Figure 1).

FigureFigure 1: Solis Max showed a high binding capacity for the most relevant mycotoxins

Another trial was conducted at an independent laboratory serving the food and feed industry and located in Valladolid, Spain.

All tests were carried out as duplicates and using a standard liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) quantification. Interpretation and data analysis were carried out with the corresponding software. The used pH was 3.0, toxin concentrations and anti-mycotoxin agent application rates were set as follows (Table 1):

TableTable 1: Trial set-up testing the binding capacity of Solis Plus 2.0 for several mycotoxins in different contamination levels


Under acidic conditions (pH3), Solis Plus 2.0 effectively adsorbs the three tested mycotoxins at low and high levels. 100% binding of aflatoxin was achieved at a level of 150ppb and 98% at 1500ppb.In the case of fumonisin, 87% adsorption could be reached at 500ppb and 86 for a challenge with 5000ppb. 43% ochratoxin was adsorbed at the contamination level of 150ppb and 52% at 1500ppb.

FigureFigure 2: The adsorption capacity of Solis Plus 2.0 for three different mycotoxins at two challenge levels

Mycotoxins – Effective risk management is of paramount importance

Although the rumen microflora may be responsible for conferring some mycotoxin resistance to ruminants compared to monogastric animals, there are still effects of mycotoxins on rumen fermentation and milk quality. In addition, masked mycotoxins in feed present an additional challenge for dairy farms because they are not readily detectable by standard analyses.

Feeding dairy cows with feed contaminated with mycotoxins can lead to a reduction in milk production. Milk quality may also deteriorate due to an adverse change in milk composition and mycotoxin residues, threatening the innocuousness of dairy products. Dairy farmers should therefore have feed tested regularly, consider masked mycotoxins, and take action. EW Nutrition’s MasterRisk tool provides a risk evaluation and corresponding recommendations for the use of products that mitigate the effects of mycotoxin contamination and, in the end, guarantee the safety of all of us.


Fighting antimicrobial resistance with immunoglobulins


By Lea Poppe, Regional Technical Manager On-Farm Solutions Europe, and Dr. Inge Heinzl, Editor

One of the ten global public health threats is antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Jim O’Neill predicted 10 million people dying from AMR annually by 2050 (O’Neill, 2016). The following article will show the causes of antimicrobial resistance and how antibodies from the egg could help mitigate the problem of AMR.

Global problem of AMR results from the incorrect use of antimicrobials

Antimicrobial substances are used to prevent and cure diseases in humans, animals, and plants and include antibiotics, antivirals, antiparasitics, and antifungals. The use of these medicines does not always happen consciously, partially due to ignorance and partially for economic reasons.

There are various possibilities for the wrong therapy

  1. The use of antibiotics against diseases that household remedies could cure. A recently published German study (Merle et al., 2023) confirmed the linear relationship between treatment frequency and resistant scores in calves younger than eight months.
  2. The use of antibiotics against viral diseases: antibiotics only act against bacteria and not against viruses. Flu, e.g., is caused by a virus, but doctors often prescribe an antibiotic.
  3. Using broad-spectrum antibiotics instead of determining an antibiogram and applying a specific antibiotic.
  4. A too-long treatment with antimicrobials so that the microorganisms have the time to adapt. For a long time, the only mistake you could make was to stop the antibiotic therapy too early. Today, the motto is “as short as possible”.

Let’s take the example of neonatal calf diarrhea, one of the most common diseases with a high economic impact. Calf diarrhea can be caused by a wide range of bacteria, viruses, or parasites. This infectious form can be a complication of non-infectious diarrhea caused by dietary, psychological, and environmental stress (Uetake, 2012). The pathogens causing diarrhea in calves can vary with the region. In Switzerland and the UK, e.g., rotaviruses and cryptosporidia are the most common pathogens, whereas, in Germany, E. coli is also one of the leading causes. To minimize the occurrence of AMR, it is always crucial to know which pathogen is behind the disease.

Prophylactic use of antibiotics is still a problem

  1. The use of low doses of antibiotics to promote growth. This use has been banned in the EU now for 17 years now, but in other parts of the world, it is still common practice. Especially in countries with low hygienic standards, antibiotics show high efficacy.
  2. The preventive use of antibiotics to help, e.g., piglets overcome the critical step of weaning or to support purchased animals for the first time in their new environment. Antibiotics reduce pathogenic pressure, decrease the incidence of diarrhea, and ensure the maintenance of growth.
  3. Within the scope of prophylactic use of antimicrobials, also group treatment must be mentioned. In veal calves, group treatments are far more common than individual treatments (97.9% of all treatments), as reported in a study documenting medication in veal calf production in Belgium and the Netherlands. Treatment indications were respiratory diseases (53%), arrival prophylaxis (13%), and diarrhea (12%). On top, the study found that nearly half of the antimicrobial group treatment was underdosed (43.7%), and a large part (37.1%) was overdosed.

However, in several countries, consumers request reduced or even no usage of antibiotics (“No Antibiotics Ever” – NAE), and animal producers must react.

Today’s mobility enables the spreading of AMR worldwide

Bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi that no longer respond to antimicrobial therapy are classified as resistant. The drugs become ineffective and, therefore, the treatment of disease inefficient or even impossible. All the different usages mentioned before offer the possibility that resistant bacteria/microorganisms will occur and proliferate. Due to global trade and the mobility of people, drug-resistant pathogens are spreading rapidly throughout the world, and common diseases cannot be treated anymore with existing antimicrobial medicines like antibiotics. Standard surgeries can become a risk, and, in the worst case, humans die from diseases once considered treatable. If new antibiotics are developed, their long-term efficacy again depends on their correct and limited use.

Different approaches are taken to fight AMR

There have already been different approaches to fighting AMR. As examples, the annually published MARAN Report compiled in the Netherlands, the EU ban on antibiotic growth promoters in 2006, “No antibiotics ever (NAE) programs” in the US, or the annually published “Antimicrobial resistance surveillance in Europe” can be mentioned. One of the latest approaches is an advisory “One Health High-Level Expert Panel” (OHHLEP) founded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2021. As AMR has many causes and, consequently, many players are involved in its reduction, the OHHLEP wants to improve communication and collaboration between all sectors and stakeholders. The goal is to design and implement programs, policies, legislations, and research to improve human, animal, and environmental health, which are closely linked. Approaches like those mentioned help reduce the spread of resistant pathogens and, with this, remain able to treat diseases in humans, animals, and plants.

On top of the pure health benefits, reducing AMR improves food security and safety and contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (e.g., zero hunger, good health and well-being, and clean water).

Prevention is better than treatment

Young animals like calves, lambs, and piglets do not receive immunological equipment in the womb and need a passive immune transfer by maternal colostrum. Accordingly, optimal colostrum management is the first way to protect newborn animals from infection, confirmed by the general discussion on the Failure of Passive Transfer: various studies suggest that calves with poor immunoglobulin supply suffer from diarrhea more frequently than calves with adequate supply.

Especially during the immunological gap when the maternal immunoglobulins are decreasing and the own immunocompetence is still not fully developed, it is crucial to have a look at housing, stress triggers, biosecurity, and the diet to reduce the risk of infectious diseases and the need for treatments.

Immunoglobulins from eggs additionally support young animals

Also, if newborn animals receive enough colostrum in time and if everything goes optimally, the animals suffer from two immunity gaps: the first one occurs just after birth before the first intake of colostrum, and the second one occurs when the maternal antibodies decrease, and the immune system of the young animal is still not developed completely. These immunity gaps raise the question of whether something else can be done to support newborns during their first days of life.

The answer was provided by Felix Klemperer (1893), a German internist researching immunity. He found that hens coming in contact with pathogens produce antibodies against these agents and transfer them to the egg. It is unimportant if the pathogens are relevant for chickens or other animals. In the egg, the immunoglobulins usually serve as an immune starter kit for the chick.

Technology enables us today to produce a high-value product based on egg powder containing natural egg immunoglobulins (IgY – immunoglobulins from the yolk). These egg antibodies mainly act in the gut. There, they recognize and tie up, for example, diarrhea-causing pathogens and, in this way, render them ineffective.

The efficacy of egg antibodies was demonstrated in different studies (Kellner et al., 1994; Erhard et al., 1996; Ikemori et al., 1997; Yokoyama et al., 1992; Marquart, 1999; Yokoyama et al., 1997) for piglets and calves.

Trial proves high efficacy of egg immunoglobulins in piglets

One trial conducted in Germany showed promising results concerning the reduction of mortality in the farrowing unit. For the trial, 96 sows and their litters were divided into three groups with 32 sows each. Two of the groups orally received a product containing egg immunoglobulins, the EP -1 + 3 group on days 1 and 3 and the EP – 1 + 2 + 3 group on the first three days. The third group served as a control. Regardless of the frequency of application, the egg powder product was very supportive and significantly reduced mortality compared to the control group. The measure resulted in 2 additionally weaned piglets than in the control group.


Egg immunoglobulins support young dairy calves

IgY-based products were also tested in calves to demonstrate their efficacy. In a field trial conducted on a Portuguese dairy farm with 12 calves per group, an IgY-containing oral application was compared to a control group without supplementation. The test product was applied on the day of birth and the two consecutive days. Key observation parameters during a two-week observation period were diarrhea incidence, onset, duration, and antibiotic treatments, the standard procedure on the trial farm in case of diarrhea. On-farm tests to check for the pathogenic cause of diarrhea were not part of the farm’s standards.


In this trial, 10 of 12 calves in the control group suffered from diarrhea, but in the trial group, only 5 calves. Total diarrhea and antibiotic treatment duration in the control group was 37 days (average 3.08 days/animal), and in the trial group, only 7 days (average 0.58 days/animal). Additionally, diarrhea in calves of the Globigen Calf Paste group started later, so the animals already had the chance to develop an at least minimally working immune system.

The supplement served as an effective tool to support calves during their first days of life and to reduce antibiotic treatments dramatically.


Antimicrobial reduction is one of the biggest tasks for global animal production. It must be done without impacting animal health and parameters like growth performance and general cost-efficacy. This overall demand can be supported with a holistic approach considering biosecurity, stress reduction, and nutritional support. Feed supplements such as egg immunoglobulins are commercial options showing great results and benefits in the field and making global animal production take the right direction in the future.


References upon request.

Toxin Mitigation 101: Essentials for Animal Production

Fusarium Mycotoxins

By Monish Raj, Assistant Manager-Technical Services, EW Nutrition
Inge Heinzl, Editor, EW Nutrition  

Mycotoxins, toxic secondary metabolites produced by fungi, are a constant and severe threat to animal production. They can contaminate grains used for animal feed and are highly stable, invisible, and resistant to high temperatures and normal feed manufacturing processes. Mycotoxin-producing fungi can be found during plant growth and in stored grains; the prevalence of fungi species depends on environmental conditions, though in grains, we find mainly three genera: Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Fusarium. The most critical mycotoxins for poultry production and the fungi that produce them are detailed in Fig 1.

FigureFigure 1: Fungi species and their mycotoxins of worldwide importance for poultry production (adapted from Bryden, 2012).

The effects of mycotoxins on the animal are manifold

When, usually, more than one mycotoxin enters the animal, they “cooperate” with each other, which means that they combine their effects in different ways. Also, not all mycotoxins have the same targets.

The synergistic effect: When 1+1 ≥3

Even at low concentrations, mycotoxins can display synergistic effects, which means that the toxicological consequences of two or more mycotoxins present in the same sample will be higher than the sum of the toxicological effects of the individual mycotoxins. So, disregarded mycotoxins can suddenly get important due to their additive or synergistic effect.

Table 1: Synergistic effects of mycotoxins in poultry

Synergistic interactions
FUM * * *
NIV * * *
AFL * *

Table 2: Additive effects of mycotoxins in poultry

Additive interactions
FUM + + + +
DON + +
OTA + +

Recognize the effects of mycotoxins in animals is not easy

The mode of action of mycotoxins in animals is complex and has many implications. Research so far could identify the main target organs and effects of high levels of individual mycotoxins. However, the impact of low contamination levels and interactions are not entirely understood, as they are subtle, and their identification requires diverse analytical methods and closer observation.

With regard to the gastrointestinal tract, mycotoxins can inhibit the absorption of nutrients vital for maintaining health, growth, productivity, and reproduction. The nutrients affected include amino acids, lipid-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K), and minerals, especially Ca and P (Devegowda and Murthy, 2005). As a result of improper absorption of nutrients, egg production, eggshell formation, fertility, and hatchability are also negatively influenced.

Most mycotoxins also have a negative impact on the immune system, causing a higher susceptibility to disease and compromising the success of vaccinations. Besides that, organs like kidneys, the liver, and lungs, but also reproduction, endocrine, and nervous systems get battered.

Mycotoxins have specific targets

Aflatoxins, fumonisins, and ochratoxin impair the liver and thus the physiological processes modulated and performed by it:

  • lipid and carbohydrate metabolism and storage
  • synthesis of functional proteins such as hormones, enzymes, and nutrient transporters
  • metabolism of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

For trichothecenes, the gastrointestinal tract is the main target. There, they hamper digestion, absorption, and intestinal integrity. T-2 can even produce necrosis in the oral cavity and esophagus.

Figure Main Targets Of Important MycotoxinsFigure 2: Main target organs of important mycotoxins

How to reduce mycotoxicosis?

There are two main paths of action, depending on whether you are placed along the crop production, feed production, or animal production cycle. Essentially, you can either prevent the formation of mycotoxins on the plant on the field during harvest and storage or, if placed at a further point along the chain, mitigate their impact.

Preventing mycotoxin production means preventing mold growth

To minimize the production of mycotoxins, the development of molds must be inhibited already during the cultivation of the plants and later on throughout storage. For this purpose, different measures can be taken:

Selection of the suitable crop variety, good practices, and optimal harvesting conditions are half of the battle

Already before and during the production of the grains, actions can be taken to minimize mold growth as far as possible:

  • Choose varieties of grain that are area-specific and resistant to insects and fungal attacks.
  • Practice crop rotation
  • Harvest proper and timely
  • Avoid damage to kernels by maintaining the proper condition of harvesting equipment.

Optimal moisture of the grains and the best hygienic conditions are essential

The next step is storage. Here too, try to provide the best conditions.

  • Dry properly: grains should be stored at <13% of moisture
  • Control moisture: minimize chances of moisture to increase due to condensation, and rain-water leakage
  • Biosecurity: clean the bins and silos routinely.
  • Prevent mold growth: organic acids can help prevent mold growth and increase storage life.

Mold production does not mean that the war is lost

Even if molds and, therefore, mycotoxins occur, there is still the possibility to change tack with several actions. There are measures to improve feed and support the animal when it has already ingested the contaminated feed.

1.    Feed can sometimes be decontaminated

If a high level of mycotoxin contamination is detected, removing, replacing, or diluting contaminated raw materials is possible. However, this is not very practical, economically costly, and not always very effective, as many molds cannot be seen. Also, heat treatment does not have the desired effect, as mycotoxins are highly heat stable.

2.    Effects of mycotoxins can be mitigated

Even when mycotoxins are already present in raw materials or finished feed, you still can act. Adding products adsorbing the mycotoxins or mitigating the effects of mycotoxins in the organism has been considered a highly-effective measure to protect the animals (Galvano et al., 2001).

This type of mycotoxin mitigation happens at the animal production stage and consists of suppressing or reducing the absorption of mycotoxins in the animal. Suppose the mycotoxins get absorbed in the animal to a certain degree. In that case, mycotoxin mitigation agents help by promoting the excretion of mycotoxins, modifying their mode of action, or reducing their effects. As toxin-mitigating agents, the following are very common:

Aluminosilicates: inorganic compounds widely found in nature that are the most common agents used to mitigate the impact of mycotoxins in animals. Their layered (phyllosilicates) or porous (tectosilicates) structure helps “trap” mycotoxins and adsorbs them.

  • Bentonite / Montmorillonite: classified as phyllosilicate, originated from volcanic ash. This absorbent clay is known to bind multiple toxins in vivo. Incidentally, its name derives from the Benton Shale in the USA, where large formations were discovered 150 years ago.
    Bentonite mainly consists of smectite minerals, especially montmorillonite (a layered silicate with a larger surface area and laminar structure).
  • Zeolites: porous crystalline tectosilicates, consisting of aluminum, oxygen, and silicon. They have a framework structure with channels that fit cations and small molecules. The name “zeolite” means “boiling stone” in Greek, alluding to the steam this type of mineral can give off in the heat). The large pores of this material help to trap toxins.

Activated charcoal: the charcoal is “activated” when heated at very high temperatures together with gas. Afterward, it is submitted to chemical processes to remove impurities and expand the surface area. This porous, powdered, non-soluble organic compound is sometimes used as a binder, including in cases of treating acute poisoning with certain substances.

Yeast cell wall: derived from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yeast cell walls are widely used as adsorbing agents. Esterified glucomannan polymer extracted from the yeast cell wall was shown to bind to aflatoxin, ochratoxin, and T-2 toxin, individually and combined (Raju and Devegowda 2000).

Bacteria: In some studies, Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB), particularly Lactobacillus rhamnosus, were found to have the ability to reduce mycotoxin contamination.

Which characteristics are crucial for an effective toxin-mitigating solution

If you are looking for an effective solution to mitigate the adverse effects of mycotoxins, you should keep some essential requirements:

  1. The product must be safe to use:
    1. safe for the feed-mill workers.
    2. does not have any adverse effect on the animal
    3. does not leave residues in the animal
    4. does not bind with nutrients in the feed.
  2. It must show the following effects:
    1. effectively adsorbs the toxins relevant to your operation.
    2. helps the animals to cope with the consequences of non-bound toxins.
  3. It must be practical to use:
    1. cost-effective
    2. easy to store and add to the feed.

Depending on

  • the challenge (one mycotoxin or several, aflatoxin or another mycotoxin),
  • the animals (short-cycle or long-living animals), and
  • the economical resources that can be invested,

different solutions are available on the market. The more cost-effective solutions mainly contain clay to adsorb the toxins. Higher-in-price products often additionally contain substances such as phytogenics supporting the animal to cope with the consequences of non-bound mycotoxins.

Solis – the cost-effective solution

In the case of contamination with only aflatoxin, the cost-effective solution Solis is recommended. Solis consists of well-selected superior silicates with high surface area due to its layered structure. Solis shows high adsorption of aflatoxin B1, which was proven in a trial:

FigureFigure 3: Binding capacity of Solis for Aflatoxin

Even at a low inclusion rate, Solis effectively binds the tested mycotoxin at a very high rate of nearly 100%. It is a high-efficient, cost-effective solution for aflatoxin contamination.

Solis Max 2.0: The effective mycotoxin solution for sustainable profitability

Solis Max 2.0 has a synergistic combination of ingredients that acts by chemi- and physisorption to prevent toxic fungal metabolites from damaging the animal’s gastrointestinal tract and entering the bloodstream.


Figure 4: Composition and effects of Solis Max 2.0

Solis Max 2.0 is suitable for more complex challenges and longer-living animals: in addition to the pure mycotoxin adsorption, Solis Max 2.0 also effectively supports the liver and, thus, the animal in its fight against mycotoxins.

In an in vitro trial, the adsorption capacity of Solis Max 2.0 for the most relevant mycotoxins was tested. For the test, the concentrations of Solis Max 2.0 in the test solutions equated to 1kg/t and 2kg/t of feed.

FigureFigure 5: Efficacy of Solis Max 2.0 against different mycotoxins relevant in poultry production

The test showed a high adsorption capacity: between 80% and 90% for Aflatoxin B1, T-2 Toxin (2kg/t), and Fumonisin B1. For OTA, DON, and Zearalenone, adsorption rates between 40% and 80% could be achieved at both concentrations (Figure 5). This test demonstrated that Solis Max 2.0 could be considered a valuable tool to mitigate the effects of mycotoxins in poultry.

Broiler trial shows improved performance in broilers

Protected and, therefore, healthier animals can use their resources for growing/laying eggs. A trial showed improved liver health and performance in broilers challenged with two different mycotoxins but supported with Solis Max 2.0.

For the trial, 480 Ross-308 broilers were divided into three groups of 160 birds each. Each group was placed in 8 pens of 20 birds in a single house. Nutrition and management were the same for all groups. If the birds were challenged, they received feed contaminated with 30 ppb of Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) and 500 ppb of Ochratoxin Alpha (OTA).

Negative control: no challenge no mycotoxin-mitigating product
Challenged group: challenge no mycotoxin-mitigating product
Challenge + Solis Max 2.0 challenge Solis Max 2.0, 1kg/t

The body weight and FCR performance parameters were measured, as well as the blood parameters of alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase, both related to liver damage when increased.

Concerning performance as well as liver health, the trial showed partly even better results for the challenged group fed with Solis Max 2.0 than for the negative, unchallenged control (Figures 6 and 7):

  • 6% higher body weight than the negative control and 18.5% higher body weight than the challenged group
  • 12 points and 49 points better FCR than the negative control and the challenged group, respectively
  • Lower levels of AST and ALT compared to the challenged group, showing a better liver health

The values for body weight, FCR, and AST, even better than the negative control, may be owed to the content of different gut and liver health-supporting phytomolecules.

FigureFigure 6: Better performance data due to the addition of Solis Max 2.0

FigureFigure 7: Healthier liver shown by lower values of AST and ALT

Effective toxin risk management: staying power is required

Mycotoxin mitigation requires many different approaches. Mycotoxin mitigation starts with sewing the appropriate plants and continues up to the post-ingestion moment. From various studies and field experience, we find that besides the right decisions about grain crops, storage management, and hygiene, the use of effective products which mitigate the adverse effects of mycotoxins is the most practical and effective way to maintain animals healthy and well-performing. According to Eskola and co-workers (2020), the worldwide contamination of crops with mycotoxins can be up to 80% due to the impact of climate change and the availability of sensitive technologies for analysis and detection. Using a proper mycotoxin mitigation program as a precautionary measure is, therefore, always recommended in animal production.

Toxin Risk ManagementFigure

EW Nutrition’s Toxin Risk Management Program supports farmers by offering a tool (MasterRisk) that helps identify and evaluate the risk and gives recommendations concerning using toxin solutions.

Mycotoxins affect intestinal health and productivity in broiler breeders

Header Poultry SP BR

By Han Zhanqiang, Poultry Technical Manager, EWN China

Poultry meat accounts for more than one-third of global meat production. With increasing demand levels, the industry faces several challenges. Among them is the continuous supply of day-old chicks, which is affected by various issues. Mitigation strategies should be taken to ensure the supply of good quality day-old chicks to production farms.

Fast-growing broilers versus fit breeders

The poultry industry is challenged by the broiler-breeder paradox: on the one hand, fast-growing broilers are desirable for meat production. On the other hand, the parents of these broilers have the same genetic traits, but in order to be fit for reproduction, their body weight should be controlled. Thus, feed restriction programs, considering breeder nutritional requirements, are necessary to achieve breed standards for weight, uniformity, body structure, and reproductive system development, determining the success of day-old chick production.

Mycotoxins affect breeder productivity

During the rearing period, gut health problems such as coccidiosis, necrotic enteritis, and dysbiosis affect flocks. Also during the laying period, breeder flocks are also susceptible to disturbances in gut health, especially during stressful periods, leading to reduced egg production and an increase in off-spec eggs. One measure to restrain these challenges is the strict quality control of the feed. In this context, contamination with mycotoxins is an important topic. However, due to the nature of fungal contamination and limitations of sampling procedures, mycotoxins may not be detected or may be present at levels considered low and not risky.

Existing studies on mycotoxins in breeders indicate that mycotoxins can cause varying degrees of reduction in egg production and hatchability and are also associated with increased embryonic mortality. Recent studies have shown that low levels of mycotoxins interact with other stressors and may lead to reduced productivity. These losses are often mistaken for normal breeder lot variation. However, they cause economic losses far greater than normal flock-to-flock variability.

Mycotoxins impair the functionality of the gut

Low mycotoxin levels affect gut health. Individually and in combinations, mycotoxins such as DON, FUM, and T2 can impact gut functions such as digestion, absorption, permeability, immunity, and microbial balance. This is critical in feed-restricted flocks because it decreases body weight and uniformity, and in laying animals, egg production and egg quality can be reduced. Absorption of calcium and vitamin D3, which are critical for eggshell formation, depends on gut integrity and the efficiency of digestion and absorption. These factors can be adversely affected by even low mycotoxin levels: eggshells can become thin and brittle, thereby reducing hatching eggs and increasing early embryo mortality.

Prevention is the key to success in day-old chick production, therefore:

  • avoid the use of raw materials with known mycotoxin contamination.
  • use feed additives prophylactically, especially with anti-mycotoxin and antioxidant properties.

Prevention is an alternative approach to assure health and productivity in -many times unknown- mycotoxin challenges.

Figure Effect Of MycotoxinsFigure 1: Effect of mycotoxins on eggshell quality and embryo death (Caballero, 2020)

University trial shows anti-mycotoxin product improving performance

A recent study by the University of Zagreb confirmed that long-term (13 weeks) exposure to feed contaminated with mycotoxins has an impact on egg production performance – a challenge that could be counteracted by using an anti-mycotoxin product.

The negative control (NC) was offered feed without mycotoxins. In contrast, the challenged control (CC), as well as a third group, received feed contaminated with 200ppb of T2, 100ppb of DON, and 2500ppb of FMB1. To the feed of the third group, an anti-mycotoxin feed additive (Mastersorb Gold, EW Nutrition) was given on top (CC+MG).

Figure Influence On Feed IntakeFigure 2: Influence of mycotoxins on feed intake and the effect of the anti-mycotoxin product Mastersorb Gold

Figure Cumulative Number Of EggsFigure 3: The effect of mycotoxins on the cumulative number of eggs and the compensating effect of Mastersorb Gold

Figure Cumulative Egg MassFigure 4: The impact of mycotoxins on the cumulative egg mass and the countereffect of Mastersorb Gold

As expected, the contaminated feed reduced feed intake, egg production, and egg weight (Fig. 2-4). Moreover, the liver and gut were affected which was evidenced in histopathological lesion scores of the organs: the control group had the lowest score, followed by the group fed Mastersorb Gold. The challenged group without any anti-mycotoxin product scored the highest.

Breeders are susceptible to mycotoxins and need our support

Broiler breeders and day-old chick production can be affected by long-term exposure to mycotoxins, which often exceeds the tolerance range of average flocks. To reduce or even prevent the potential impact of mycotoxins, a comprehensive management strategy is crucial. This includes responsible raw material procurement, storage, and feed processing leading to high feed quality, and the consideration of breeders’ nutrient demands. The inclusion of highly effective products to manage mycotoxin risk is an additional tool to maintain breeder performance.

Feed hygiene protects animals and humans


By Vaibhav Gawande, Assistant Manager Technical Services, Dr. Inge Heinzl, Editor, and Marisabel Caballero, Global Technical Manager Poultry, EW Nutrition

The utility value of feed consists of the nutritional value and the quality. The first covers all characteristics concerning the essential nutrients and is important for feed formulation and the adequate supply of the animals.

Feed quality comprises all characteristics of a feed influenced by treatment, storage, conservation, hygiene, and its content of specific substances. For many factors, guidance and threshold values are available which should be met to guarantee animal health and welfare, as well as to protect public health, since some undesirable substances can be transferred to animal products such as meat, eggs, and milk.

In this article, we will focus on feed hygiene. We will talk about the consequences of low feed quality, how to understand it, its causes, and possible solutions.

What are the effects of deficient feed hygiene?

The consequences of deficient feed hygiene can be divided into two parts, impurities and spoilage.

Impurities comprise:

  • the presence of soil, sand, or dust
  • contamination with or residues of heavy metals, PCB, dioxins, pesticides, fertilizers, disinfectants, toxic plants, or banned feed ingredients

In the case of spoilage, we see:

  • degradation of organic components by the action of molds and bacteria
  • growth of pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella, etc.
  • accumulation of toxins such as mycotoxins or bacterial toxins (Hoffmann, 2021)

Bad feed hygiene can also negatively impact the feed’s nutritional value by leading to a loss of energy as well as decreasing the bioavailability of vitamins A, D3, E, K, and B1.

But, how can all signs of deficient feed hygiene be recognized? Soil, sand, and probably dust can be seen in well-taken samples and impurities can be analyzed. But is it possible to spot spoilage? In this case, agglutinated particles, rancid odor, moisture, and discoloration are indicators. Sometimes, also the temperature of the feed or ingredient increases. However, spoilage is not always obvious and an analysis of the feed can give more information about the spoilage-related organisms present. It also helps to decide if the feed is safe for the animals or not. In the case of obvious alterations, the feed should not be consumed by any animal.

Different organisms decrease feed quality and impact health

Several organisms can be responsible for a decrease in feed quality. Besides the visible pests such as rats, mice, or beetles, which can easily be noticed and combatted, there are organisms whose mastering is much more difficult. In the following part, the different harmful organisms and substances are described and solutions are presented.

Enteropathogens can cause diarrhea and production losses

In poultry, different bacteria responsible for high production losses can be transferred via the feed. The most relevant of them are Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli, and some strains of Salmonella.

Clostridium perfringens, the cause of necrotic enteritis

Clostridium perfringens is a Gram-positive, anaerobic bacterium that is extremely resistant to environmental influences and can survive in soil, feed, and litter for several years and even reproduce. Clostridium perfringens causes necrotic enteritis mainly in 2-16 weeks old chickens and turkeys, being more critical in 3-6 weeks old chicks.

There is a clinical and a subclinical form of necrotic enteritis. The clinical form can be detected very well due to clear symptoms and mortality rates up to 50%. The subclinical form, while harder to detect, also raises production costs due to a significant decrease in performance. The best prophylaxis against clostridia is the maintenance of gut health, including feed hygiene.

Clostridia can be found in animal by-products, as can be seen in table 1.

Sr. No. Sample details Clostridium perfringens contamination Total number of samples Positivity %
Positive Negative
1 Meat and bone meal 39 52 91 42.86
2 Soya meal 0 3 3 0
3 Rape seed meal 0 1 1 0
4 Fish meal 21 17 38 55.26
5 Layer Feed 21 71 93 22.58
6 Dry fish 5 8 13 38.46
7 De-oiled rice bran 0 2 2 0
8 Maize 0 2 2 0
9 Bone meal 13 16 29 44.83

Table 1: Isolation of Clostridium perfringens from various poultry feed ingredients in Tamil Nadu, India (Udhayavel et al., 2017)

Salmonella is harmful to animals and humans

Salmonella is a gram-negative enterobacterium and can occur in feed. There are only two species – S. enterica and S. bongori (Lin-Hui and Cheng-Hsun, 2007), but almost 2700 serotypes. The most known poultry-specific Salmonella serotypes are S. pullorum affecting chicks and S. gallinarum affecting adult birds. The other two well-known serotypes, S. enteritidis and S. typhimurium are the most economically important ones because they can also infect humans.

Salmonella enteritidis, in particular, can be transferred via table eggs to humans. The egg content can be infected vertically as a result of a colonization of the reproductive tract of the hen (De Reu, 2015). The other possibility is a horizontal infection, as some can penetrate through the eggshell from a contaminated environment or poor egg handling.

Salmonella can also be transferred through meat. However, as there are more production steps where contamination can happen (breeder and broiler farm, slaughterhouse, processing plants, food storage…), traceability is more complicated. As feed can be vector, feed hygiene is crucial.

Moreover, different studies have found that the same Salmonella types found in feed are also detected – weeks later – in poultry farms and even further in the food chain, as reviewed by Ricke and collaborators (2019). Other researches even imply that Salmonella contamination of carcasses and eggs could be significantly reduced by minimizing the incidence of Salmonella in the feed (Shirota et al., 2000).

E. coli – some are pathogenic

E. coli is a gram-negative, not acid-resistant bacterium and most strains are inhabitants of the gut flora of birds, warm-blooded animals, and humans. Only some strains cause disease. To be infectious, the bacteria must have fimbriae to attach to the gut wall or the host must have an immune deficiency, perhaps due to stress. E. coli can be transmitted via contaminated feed or water as well as by fecal-contaminated dust.

Escherichia coli infections can be found in poultry of all ages and categories and nearly everywhere in the bird. E. coli affects the navel of chicks, the reproductive organs of hens, several parts of the gut, the respiratory tract, the bones and joints, and the skin and are part of the standard control.

The feed microbiome can contribute to a balanced gut microbial community. The origins of pathogenic E. coli in a flock can also be traced to feed contamination (Stanley & Bajagai, 2022). Especially in pre-starter/starter feeds, E. coli contamination can be critical as the day-old chick’s gut is starting to be colonized. Especially in this phase, maintaining a low microbial count in feed is crucial.

Molds cause feed spoilage and reduce nutritional value

Molds contaminate grains, both in the field and during storage, and can also grow in stored feed and even in feed stored or accumulated in storage facilities in animal production farms.

The contamination of feed by molds and their rapid growth can cause heating of the feed. As molds also need nutrients, their growth results in a reduction of energy and the availability of vitamins A, D3, E, K, and B1, thus decreasing the feed’s nutritional value. This heating occurs in most feeds with a moisture content higher than 15 /16%. Additionally, mold-contaminated feed tends to be dusty and has a bad taste impacting palatability and, as a consequence, feed intake and performance.

Molds produce spores that can, when inhaled, cause chronic respiratory disease or even death if the animals are exposed to contaminated feed for a longer time. Another consequence of mold contamination is the production of mycotoxins by several mold species. These mycotoxins can affect the animal in several ways, from decreasing performance to severe disease (Esmail, 2021; Government of Manitoba, 2023).

With effective feed hygiene management, we want to stop and prevent mold growth, as well as all its negative consequences.

Prevention is better than treatment

It is clear that when the feed is spoiled, it must be removed, and animal health supporting measures should take place. However, it is better to prevent the consequences of low feed hygiene on animals. Proper harvest and adequate storage of the feed are basic measures to stop mold growth. Additionally, different tools are available to protect the animals from feed bacterial load and other risk factors.

Solutions are available to support feed hygiene

There are several solutions to fight the organisms which decrease feed quality. Some directly act against the harmful substances / pathogens, and others act indirectly, meaning that they change the environment to a non-comfortable one for the organism.

Formaldehyde and propionic acid – an unbeatable team against bacteria

A combination of formaldehyde and propionic acid is perfect to sanitize feed. Formaldehyde results in bacterial DNA and protein damage, and propionic acid is active against bacteria and molds. Together, they improve the microbiological quality of the feed and reduce the risk of secondary diseases such as necrotic enteritis or dysbiosis on the farm. In addition to the pure hygienic aspect, organic acids support digestion.

An in-vitro trial was conducted to evaluate the effect of such a combination (Formycine Gold Px) against common poultry pathogens. Poultry feed was spiked with three different bacteria, achieving very high initial contamination of 1,000,000 CFU/g per pathogen. One batch of the contaminated feed served as a control (no additive). To the other contaminated batches, 1, 2, or 4 kg of Formycine per ton of feed were added. The results (means of triplicates) are shown in figures 1 a-c.

Figure A Salmonella

Figure B E

Figure C Clostridium PerfringensFigures 1 a-c: Reduction of bacterial count due to the addition of Formycine

Formycine Gold Px significantly reduced the bacterial counts in all three cases. A clear dose-response-effect can be seen and by using 2 kg of Formycine / t of feed, pathogens could not be detected anymore in the feed.

A further trial showed the positive effects of feeding Formycine Gold Px treated feed to the animals. Also here, the feed for both groups was contaminated with 1,000,000 CFU of Clostridium/g. The feed of the control group was not treated and to the treatment group, 2 kg of Formycine per t was added.

Figure Preventive EffectFigure 2: Preventive effect of Formycine Gold Px concerning necrotic enteritis gut lesions

Figure A Daily GainFigure 3a and 3b: Performance-maintaining effect of Formycine Gold Px

The trial showed that Formycine Gold Px reduced the ingestion of the pathogen, and thus could prevent the lesions caused by necrotic enteritis (Fig. 2). The consequence of this improved gut health is a better feed conversion and higher average daily gain (Fig.3a and 3b).

Products containing formaldehyde may represent a risk for humans, however, the adequate protection equipment helps to reduce/avoid exposure.

A combination of free acids and acid salts provides optimal hygienic effects

Additionally, another blend of organic acids (Acidomix AFG) shows the best effects against representatives of relevant feed-borne pathogens in poultry. In a test, 50 µl solution containing different microorganisms (reference strains of S. enterica, E. coli, C. perfringens, C. albicans, and A. niger; concentration 105 CFU/ml, respectively) were pipetted into microdilution plates together with 50 µl of increasing concentrations of a mixture of organic acids (Acidomix) After incubation, the MIC and MBC of each pathogen were calculated.

The test results show (figure 4, Minimal Bactericidal Concentration) that 0.5% of Acidomix AFG in the medium (≙ 5kg/t of feed) is sufficient to kill S. enterica, C. albicans, and A. niger and even only 2.5kg/t in the case of E. coli. If the pathogens should only be prevented to proliferate, even a lower amount of product is requested (figure 5, Minimal Inhibitory Concentration – MIC)

Figure MbcFigure 4: MBC of Acidomix AFG against different pathogens (%)

Figure MicFigure 5: MIC of Acidomix AFG against different pathogens (%)

In addition to the direct antimicrobial effect, this product decreases the pH of the feed and reduces its buffering capacity. The combination of free acids and acid salts provides prompt and long-lasting effects.

Feed hygiene: a critical path to animal performance

Feed accounts for 65-70% of broiler and 75-80% of layer production costs. Therefore, it is essential to use the available feed to the utmost. The quality of the feed is one decisive factor for the health and performance of the animals. Proper harvesting and storage are in the hands of the farmers and the feed millers. The industry offers products to control the pathogens causing diseases and the molds producing toxins and, therefore, helps farmers save feed AND protect the health and performance of their animals.


Dinev, Ivan. Diseases of Poultry: A Colour Atlas. Stara Zagora: Ceva Sante Animal, 2007.

Esmail, Salah Hamed. “Moulds and Their Effect on Animal Health and Performance.” All About Feed, June 17, 2021. https://www.allaboutfeed.net/all-about/mycotoxins/moulds-and-their-effect-on-animal-health-and-performance/.

Government of Manitoba. “Spoiled Feeds, Molds, Mycotoxins and Animal Health.” Province of Manitoba – Agriculture. Accessed March 16, 2023. https://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/livestock/production/beef/spoiled-feeds-molds-mycotoxins-and-animal-health.html.

Hoffmann, M. “Tierwohl Und Fütterung.” LKV Sachsen: Tierwohl und Fütterung. Sächsischer Landeskontrollverband e.V., January 25, 2021. https://www.lkvsachsen.de/fuetterungsberater/blogbeitrag/artikel/tierwohl-und-fuetterung/.

Ricke, Steven C., Kurt Richardson, and Dana K. Dittoe. “Formaldehydes in Feed and Their Potential Interaction with the Poultry Gastrointestinal Tract Microbial Community–A Review.” Frontiers in Veterinary Science 6 (2019). https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2019.00188.

Shirota, Kazutoshi, Hiromitsu Katoh, Toshihiro Ito, and Koichi Otsuki. “Salmonella Contamination in Commercial Layer Feed in Japan.” Journal of Veterinary Medical Science 62, no. 7 (2000): 789–91. https://doi.org/10.1292/jvms.62.789.

Stanley, Dragana, and Yadav Sharma Bajagai. “Feed Safety and the Development of Poultry Intestinal Microbiota.” Animals 12, no. 20 (2022): 2890. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12202890.

Su, Lin-Hui, and Cheng-Hsun Chiu. “Salmonella: Clinical Importance and Evolution of Nomenclature.” Chang Gung Med J 30, no. 3 (2007): 210–19.

Udhayavel, Shanmugasundaram, Gopalakrishnamurthy Thippichettypalayam Ramasamy, Vasudevan Gowthaman, Shanmugasamy Malmarugan, and Kandasamy Senthilvel. “Occurrence of Clostridium Perfringens Contamination in Poultry Feed Ingredients: Isolation, Identification and Its Antibiotic Sensitivity Pattern.” Animal Nutrition 3, no. 3 (2017): 309–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aninu.2017.05.006.

Cryptosporidia in calves – chickens can help

Header Calf Standing Fotolia L

By Lea Poppe, Regional Technical Manager, EW Nutrition

Diarrhea due to infestation with cryptosporidia is one of the most pressing problems in calf rearing. These protozoa, along with rotaviruses, are now considered the most common pathogens in infectious calf diarrhea. Due to their high resistance and thus limited possible control and prevention measures, they have now overtaken other pathogens such as coronaviruses, salmonellae, and E. coli.

Cryptosporidia show complex development

Cryptosporidia are single-celled intestinal parasites. In calves, Cryptosporidium parvum and Cryptosporidium bovis are most commonly found. C. bovis is normally considered nonpathogenic. Accordingly, the disease known as cryptosporidiosis is caused by C. parvum. The rapid tests for determining the diarrheal pathogens, which are increasingly widespread, are usually unsuitable for distinguishing between the individual strains, which can lead to false positive results.

Resistant in the environment, active in the animal

In the environment, cryptosporidia are distributed as oocysts. The oocysts are only about 5 µm in size and have a very resistant shell. They can remain infectious for up to 6 months in high humidity and moderate temperatures. Drought and extreme temperatures (below -18°C and above 65°C) cause the oocysts to die.

After oral ingestion, the oocysts are reactivated by conditions in the gastrointestinal tract (low pH and body temperature): As sporozoites, the parasites attach to the posterior small intestine, causing diarrhea symptomatology. There, they surround themselves with a special protective membrane, and the complex life cycle continues. Only a few days after infection, reproductive forms are detectable in the calf’s intestine, and excretion of infectious oocysts in the feces begins.

Header Calf En
Figure 1 (Olias et al., 2018): Life cycle of cryptosporidia: ingested oocysts release four sporozoites that invade host enterocytes (intestinal epithelial cells). There, they develop into trophozoites before asexual and sexual reproduction ensues, and thin- and thick-walled oocysts are formed. Thick-walled oocysts are excreted through the intestine. Thin-walled oocysts may break apart, and the sporozoites may infect other enterocytes, resulting in relapse or prolonged diarrhea. Infestation of the cells leads to their destruction, resulting in villi atrophy or fusion.

Oocysts bring the disease to the animal

Cryptosporidiosis is transmitted either by direct contact of calves with feces from infected animals or indirectly by ingesting contaminated feed, bedding, or water. Each gram of feces excreted by calves showing symptoms may contain up to 100 million oocysts. According to experimental studies, as few as 17 orally ingested oocysts are sufficient to trigger infection. In addition, some multiplication forms can infect other intestinal cells directly within the intestine and thus further advance the disease by autoinfection.

Cryptosporidiosis caused by cryptosporidia often presents with typical diarrhea symptoms and occurs primarily in calves up to 3 weeks of age. Older calves may also be infected with cryptosporidia but usually show no symptoms. Pathogen excretion and, thus, the spread of disease within the herd is nevertheless likely due to the minimal infectious dose.

Damage to the intestinal wall leads to retardation of growth

Attachment of cryptosporidia to the intestinal wall is associated with an inflammatory reaction, regression and fusion of the intestinal villi, and damage to the microvilli. As a result, nutrient absorption in the small intestine is impaired, and more undigested nutrients enter the colon. The microflora starts a fermentation process with lactose and starch, leading to increased lactate levels in the blood and, thus, hyperacidity in the calf. Faintness, unwillingness to drink, recumbency, and growth disorders are the consequences.

Diarrhea often occurs late or not at all and, accordingly, is not considered the main symptom of cryptosporidiosis. When diarrhea occurs, it lasts about 1-2 weeks. The feces are typically watery, greenish-yellow, and are often described as foul-smelling. Due to diarrhea, there is a loss of electrolytes and dehydration.

Studies show: Cryptosporidia are the most prevalent diarrheal pathogens

Several studies in different regions, which examined calf diarrhea and its triggers in more detail, came to a similar conclusion: Cryptosporidia are one of the most common causes of calf diarrhea. In addition, mixed infections often occur.


Country or region Number Age/Health status % Crypto-sporidia % Rota viruses Combined infections with crypto-sporidia Others (%) Source
Switzerland 2 – 21 DL

Ill and healthy

43 46 1 case of E. coli Luginbühl et al., 2012
Switzerland 63 1 – 4 DL

Ill and healthy


7 – 20 DL


26 – 49 DL











2 EP – 1.6

4 EP – 3.2


2 EP – 19

3 EP – 3.2

4 EP – 0


2 EP – 30

3 EP – 11.7

4 EP – 6.7

Corona 4.7

E. coli 4.7

Giardia 1.6


Corona 0

E. coli 3.2

Giardia 6.3


Corona 0

E. coli 15

Giardia 35


Weber et al., 2016


Weber et al., 2016 EN

Switzerland 147 Up to 3rd WL;


55 58.7 5.5 % Rota

7.8 % BCV

Lanz Uhde et al., 2014
Sweden 782 1 – 7 DL


25.3 Detected with Giardia, E. coli, Rota, Eimeria Silverlås et al., 2012
USA (East coast) 503 Pre-weaning 50.3 Santin et al., 2004
USA 30 2 weeks old

1-8 weeks old

3-12 months

12-24 months





Santin et al., 2008
Germany 521 32 9 Losand et al., 2021
Ethiopia 360 18.6 Ayele et al., 2018
Argentina 1073 n.m. / Ill and healthy 25.5 Lombardelli et al., 2019
UK n.m. Ill ?? 37 25 20 Coccidia 8

E. coli 4

Corona 3

Co infections not including Crypto-sporidia 3

APHA, SRUC, Veterinary investigation diagnosis analysis (VIDA) report (2014)

DL = days of life WL = weeks of life n.m. = not mentioned  EP = enteropathogen

Cryptosporidia reduces profit

Infection with cryptosporidia and sometimes subsequent diarrhea entails treatment of the animals and generates costs (veterinarian, medication, electrolyte drinks). In addition, poorer feed conversion, lower growth, and animal losses result in lower production efficiency.

A Scottish study shows 34 kg less gain in the first six months of life compared to healthy calves in beef calves that experienced severe cryptosporidiosis in the first three weeks of life. Similar results are described in lambs, also a susceptible species to cryptosporidia. These studies suggest a long-term negative effect of cryptosporidia on growth performance and production efficiency.

Here’s how you can support your calves against cryptosporidia

High resistance of the pathogens to environmental influences, a very low necessary infection dose combined with an elevated excretion of infectious oocysts, and the possibility of autoinfection make cryptosporidia tough opponents. This is also reflected in their worldwide distribution.

What is the treatment?

Suitable drugs for the treatment of cryptosporidiosis are currently unavailable on the market. The only medicine that can be used in case of cryptosporidiosis infestation may only be administered to calves that have had diarrhea symptoms for 24 hours or less. Accordingly, this agent is usually used only for prevention. Scientific studies on its effectiveness are contradictory; some suggest that it merely delays the onset of the disease. In addition, it is not always easy to use due to the exact dosage that must be followed. Doubling the dose (sometimes happening already due to incorrectly observed intervals between doses) can lead to a toxic overdose.

Accordingly, only the symptoms of the disease – diarrhea with its accompanying symptoms – can be treated. Electrolyte and water losses must be continuously compensated with the help of a high-quality electrolyte drink. The buffer substances contained also reduce the hyperacidity of the blood caused by faulty fermentation in the intestines. For successful treatment, the electrolyte drink should be given in addition to the milk drink. Under no circumstances should the feeding of milk or milk replacer be discontinued because the sick calf urgently needs energy and nutrients. Opinions to the contrary are outdated.

As always: prevention is better than treatment

To make it more difficult for cryptosporidiosis to spread from the outset, it is worth looking at the risk factors. These include direct contact with other calves and general herd size. Furthermore, organic farms seem to have more problems with cryptosporidia. Weather also influences calves born during warmer and, at the same time, wetter weather periods (temperature-humidity index) often get sick.

Due to the limited possibilities for treatment, prevention is of greater importance. For other diarrheal pathogens such as rotavirus, coronavirus, and E. coli, it has become established practice to vaccinate dams to achieve better passive immunization of the calf. However, commercial vaccination against cryptosporidia is not currently available, making dam vaccination as unavailable as calf vaccination.

Accordingly, optimal colostrum management is the first way to protect the calf from cryptosporidia infection. This also confirms the general discussion on the Failure of Passive Transfer: various studies suggest that calves with poor immunoglobulin supply suffer from diarrhea more frequently than calves with good supply, although a concrete link to cryptosporidia itself cannot always be established with certainty.

Furthermore, it is essential to break the chain of infection within farms. In addition to the separate housing of the calves, it is necessary to ensure consistent hygiene. One should take advantage of the pathogen’s weakness as well as its sensitivity to high temperatures and ensure that the water temperature is sufficiently high when cleaning the calf pens and calving area. When disinfecting afterward, it is crucial to consider the spectrum of activity of the agent used, as not all are effective against cryptosporidia.

Egg immunoglobulins support animals against cryptosporidia

Egg immunoglobulins were initially designed to help chicks get started. In this process, hens form antibodies against pathogens they are confronted with. As studies have shown, this also works with cryptosporidia. Cama and Sterling (1991) tested their produced antibodies in the neonatal mouse model and achieved a significant (P≤0.001) reduction in parasites there. Kobayashi et al. (2004) registered decreased binding of sporozoites to the intestinal cell model and their decreased viability in addition to oocyst reduction.

In the IRIG Research Institute (2009, unpublished), feeding egg powder with immunoglobulins against cryptosporidia (10 g/day) to 15 calves reduced oocyst excretion. Before administration, calves excreted an average of 106.42 oocysts/g of feces. After administration of egg powder, only two calves still showed 103.21 oocysts/g feces, and the other 13 of the 15 calves showed no oocyst excretion. All these results are confirmed by positive customer feedback on IgY-based feed supplements.

Egg immunoglobulins and optimal colostrum management as a key solution

Since there are no effective drugs against cryptosporidia, animals must be prophylactically protected against this disease as much as possible. In addition to optimal colostrum management, which means feeding high-quality colostrum (IgG≥50g/L) to the calf as soon as possible after birth, we have products with egg immunoglobulins available to support the calf as a prophylactic against cryptosporidia infestation and thus prevent significant performance losses, especially during rearing.


Brainard, J., Hooper, L., McFariane, S., Hammer, C. C., Hunter, P. R., & Tyler, K. (2020). Systemic review of modifiable risk factors shows little evidential support for most current practices in Cryptosporidium management in bovine calves. Parasitology research 119, 3572-3584.

Cama, V. A., and C. R. Sterling. “Hyperimmune Hens as a Novel Source of Anti-Cryptosporidium Antibodies Suitable for Passive Immune Transfer.” University of Arizona. Wiley-Blackwell, January 1, 1991. https://experts.arizona.edu/en/publications/hyperimmune-hens-as-a-novel-source-of-anti-cryptosporidium-antibo.

Kobayashi, C, H Yokoyama, S Nguyen, Y Kodama, T Kimata, and M Izeki. “Effect of Egg Yolk Antibody on Experimental Infection in Mice.” Vaccine 23, no. 2 (2004): 232–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2004.05.034.

Lamp, D. O. (25. Januar 2020). Rinder aktuell: Kälberdurchfall durch Kryptosporidien – Hartnäckig und weitverbreitet. BAUERNBLATT, S. 52-53.

Losand, B., Falkenberg, U., Krömker, V., Konow, M., & Flor, J. (2. März 2021). Kälberaufzucht in MV – Alles im grünen Bereich? 30. Milchrindtag Mecklemburg-Vorpommern.

Luginbühl, A., K. Reitt, A. Metzler, M. Kollbrunner, L. Corboz, and P. Deplazes. “Feldstudie Zu Prävalenz Und Diagnostik Von Durchfallerregern Beim Neonaten Kalb Im Einzugsgebiet Einer Schweizerischen Nutztierpraxis.” Schweizer Archiv für Tierheilkunde 147, no. 6 (2005): 245–52. https://doi.org/10.1024/0036-7281.147.6.245.

Olias, P., Dettwiler, I., Hemphill, A., Deplazes, P., Steiner, A., & Meylan, M. (2018). Die Bedeutung der Cryptosporidiose für die Kälbergesundheit in der Schweiz. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd, Band 160, Heft 6, Juni 2018, 363-374.

Santín, M., Trout, J. M., Xiao, L., Zhou, L., Greiner, E., & Fayer, R. (2004). Prevalence and age-related variation of Cryptosporidium species and genotypes in dairy calves. Veterinary Parasitology 122, 103-117.

Shaw, H. J., Innes, E. A., Marrison, L. J., Katzer, F., & Wells, B. (2020). Long-term production effects of clinical cryptosporidiosis in neonatal calves. International Journal for Parasitology 50, 371-376.

Silverlås, C., H. Bosaeus-Reineck, K. Näslund, and C. Björkman. “Is There a Need for Improved Cryptosporidium Diagnostics in Swedish Calves?” International Journal for Parasitology 43, no. 2 (2013): 155–61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpara.2012.10.009.

Thomson, Sarah, Carly A. Hamilton, Jayne C. Hope, Frank Katzer, Neil A. Mabbott, Liam J. Morrison, and Elisabeth A. Innes. “Bovine Cryptosporidiosis: Impact, Host-Parasite Interaction, and Control Strategies.” Veterinary Research 48, no. 1 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13567-017-0447-0.

Uhde, F., Kaufmann, T., Sager, H., Albini, S., Zanoni, R., & Schelling, E. (2008). Prevalence of four enteropathogens in the feces of young diarrhoeic dairy calves in Switzerland. Veterinary Record (163), 362-366.