An innovative alternative to growth promoters

by 5m Editor
5 October 2004, at 12:00am

By Alpharma Animal Health - Growth promoters with an anti-microbial activity, when mixed into the feed, have been used for decades, as they no doubt, contributed substantially in increasing poultry, swine and cattle production output and efficiency.

Alphamune - Shielding and earning

Some of them additionally helped to reduce clinical complaints in animal production, though used and regulated at subtherapeutic dosage regime levels, as compared to veterinary products.

Improved output

Anti-microbial growth promoters act on the bacterial intestinal flora of animals, modifying their metabolisation pattern in a way that nutrient digestibility is improved.

As they are used at sub-therapeutic levels, they would not reduce the quantity of intestinal bacterial flora populations, however they are driving these flora to reduce metabolisation of carbohydrates into lactic acid in favour of glucose, the most interesting energetic molecule for anabolism.

In a similar way anti-microbial growth promoters would drive the metabolisation pattern of these flora to reduce fermentation of protein containing nutrients into amides, instead in favour of amino acids, again the most interesting anabolic molecules providing growth.

The result is an improved feed conversion rate and an improved average daily weight gain, at least in the single digit percentage range and valuable for animals for food production.

Reducing infection pressure

Some of these anti-microbial growth promoters have an inherent activity on pathogens, responsible for mainly intestinal diseases in chickens, turkeys and pigs. Only few have some effect on respiratory disease in pigs.

With an ongoing and prevalent infection pressure of such pathogens under current farming conditions, these anti-microbial agents will help in reducing the clinical symptoms for such diseases, hence not be able to eliminate these diseases. Seems logical, when these anti-microbials are not used at therapeutic dosage regimens.

Hence, producers can visually see some improvement of symptoms for mainly intestinal diseases when growth promoters are added into the feed and appreciate this as additional value.

Challenges and concerns

Due to major community concerns over anti-microbial resistance development in humans and food safety, the European authorities have decided as a precautionary principle, that as of 31st of December 2005, antimicrobial growth promoters will be banned from use in the European Union.

Consequently this will have a major impact on the efficiency of the livestock production and induce a surge in clinical intestinal diseases like diarrhoea in weaner and grower pigs and a surge of clinical necrotic enteritis in growing poultry.

A worrying increase

A worrying increase in the use of therapeutic anti-microbials is already occurring and will further develop with more producing companies abandoning the use of growth promoting anti-microbials.

Such experiences have been clearly demonstrated with the earlier ban of all anti-microbial growth promoters in Sweden in 1986 and in Denmark in March 1998.

The industry of course is trying to provide answers in tackling these production and community challenges and have partially succeeded in improving animal husbandry management.

Adjustments in nutrition and implementation of a more preventive approach of disease have been put in place.

This has paid off partially, in some good part in recuperating the performance benefit and reducing back the use of therapeutic anti-microbials.

An additional factor which will certainly help in tackling the disease challenge, will be to capitalise on the optimal functioning of the animal’s immune system and the integrity of the animal’s intestinal tract and function.

Alignment with food safety for new alternative tools to apply, will certainly become a key decisive factor for acceptance by consumers and authorities (see Table 1).

An innovative alternative

Alpharma Animal Health, a global leader in providing feed additives to the poultry and pig industry, has been concerned about these challenges the industry is facing.

In recent years it has been developing an innovative, safe feed supplement that can provide a reliable long term answer for the industry facing the growth promoter ban.

The whole idea was to develop a modern feed supplement, in line with food safety, that should compensate for the lost performance and assist in supporting the immune system of the target animals.

This would enable animals to tackle occurring infection pressure with its own physiological ammunition.

In the same way the supplement needed to be a non-antibiotic, preferably an organic compound and not a living organism.

As a tool, in alignment with food safety, the use of it will not cause community concerns like intestinal bacterial flora colonisation, reversion of virulence of living organisms, presence of antibiotic residues and resistance transfer.


AlphamuneTM G is a modern feed supplement, containing a certified quantity of selected and active beta-glucans, which when dosed correctly, specifically helps to support the a-specific and specific immunity of growing pigs, broilers, layers, parent stock and turkeys. As such, expectations are that the host’s immunity system will be better weaponed to tackle clinical complaints originated from diseases caused by a broad variety of intestinal and systemic pathogens.

This unique activity will help to reduce complaints caused by imminent infection pressure in growing pigs and poultry.

The producers’ benefit is not only seeing less clinical complaints, hence also the expectation of a reduction of therapeutic anti-microbial usage and spendings, thus reducing production cost.

Reduction of clinical complaints in swine herds suffering from the Porcine Respiratory Complex have been reported in various swine operations, with a reduced need for therapeutic interventions.

That is what is called the shielding effect of AlphamuneTM G.


To preserve performance, AlphamuneTM G also needed to have a component supporting gain in growth and be at least equivalent in that respect compared to the currently used growth promoters like avilamycin and flavomycin.

The mannan-oligosaccharides present in the supplement are acting as a substrate for, and are helpful in developing a well balanced intestinal bacterial population, a pre-biotic activity.

Various studies have demonstrated that gain, feed conversion rates in operations supplemented with AlphamuneTM G were comparable or better as compared to operations supplemented with the presently used growth promoters.

Interestingly enough, it has been demonstrated that these mannan-oligosaccharides also help in reducing the invasiveness of Salmonella typhimurium and Salmonella enteriditis in target species cellines.

In vivo experiences have now shown that this will be the case under field conditions, confirming the findings from the in vitro findings.


The critical and unique step for success is a well controlled autolysis and purification of the Saccharomyces cerevisae inactivated yeast cells, liberating the specific and selected 1-3,1-6 beta-glucans and mannanoligosaccharides, standing for the right efficacy, when correctly dosed in the right quantities.

A high tech quality granulation process and sourcing under Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) conditions, has provided a reliable and convenient feed supplement for feed manufacturers which is certified genetically modified organism (GMO) free.

Aligning with food safety

AlphamuneTM G is an example that stands for more well being of all involved parties in the food production chain.

As an innovative alternative for growth promoters, it will be the food safety ally now and in the future.

Providing, for the producer, more revenues due to the preserved animal performance and helping to shield for clinical field complaints under farming conditions, with expected reduced intervention costs.

For the retailer, this brings opportunities for branding meat and ready meal consumer products, originating from poultry and pork. AlphamuneTM G used for these animals is antibiotic free, thus antibiotic residue free and is a supplement in alignment with food safety.

Safe food is warranted for the consumer as only natural organic compounds are administered with the feed supplement and, therefore, will not cause any concern to consumers or community groups.

Moreover, animals receiving this feed supplement will benefit in developing their genetic potential and will suffer less due to an expected reduction of clinical complaints as their endogenous immune system is supported – all of this contributing to animal welfare.

AlphamuneTM G is routinely mixed at a standard dosage of 500 grams/tonne of complete finished feed, going up to levels of 1kg/ tonne of finished feed.

Table 1. Expected activity of various product categories on reducing
field complaints originated from damaging pathogens in animal production
( x - direct activity, (x) = indirect activity)

AlphamuneTM G is a Trademark of Alpharma Inc., One Executive Drive, Fort Lee, NJ 07024, USA.

Source: Alpharma Animal Health - September 2004