WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
Probiotics are live, beneficial microorganisms (bacteria) that are orally ingested to promote intestinal health thus leading to greater overall health. The Latin translation of the word “probiotic”, actually means “for life”.
Probiotics used to increase animal health have been around for over 30 years, however not until the last five or so years have they become extremely popular. The reasons for the popularity of probiotics are numerous and are based upon proven and positive results from university conducted research. When we speak of probiotics in deer microbiology or deer nutrition, we are usually referring to live beneficial bacteria located within the small and large intestine. Ruminants, such as deer, have beneficial bacteria in the rumen, but those are different species of beneficial bacteria that generally do not apply to commercial probiotics used specifically for intestinal health.
WHAT DO PROBIOTICS DO?
There are many different species of probiotics, each having different functions in the digestive system. Some probiotics help to produce specific enzymes to digest food, while others produce specific nutrients that are used by the animal. Some grow and replicate in the colon (large intestine) while others thrive in the small intestine. Some probiotics are more effective at controlling E. coli, while others are more effective against Salmonella, and Clostridium. Some probiotics are very sensitive and die easily with small temperature fluctuations (hot or cold) while others are extremely tolerant of heat, cold and acidic environments which allow them to survive for thousands of years under very harsh conditions. Basically, not all probiotics are created equal and it is very important to use species specific probiotics to accomplish your goal. If your goal is to increase feed efficiency, there are probiotics for that. If your goal is to reduce E. coli in the small and large intestine, there are probiotics for that.
HOW DO PROBIOTICS WORK?
The majority of pathogenic bacteria require a very specific intestinal pH (acidic) to efficiently live and reproduce. Many probiotics require different intestinal pH levels (neutral) than pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli or Salmonella. Probiotics can help regulate intestinal pH levels (making the pH more neutral) making it extremely difficult for pathogenic bacteria to survive and ensures their survival over the pathogenic bacteria. Some probiotics can also produce their own antibiotics! Yes that is correct, some probiotics produce antibiotics to combat pathogenic bacteria in the intestine! Probiotics can also reduce intestinal inflammation, diarrhea caused by bacterial pathogens (E. coli), and inhibit toxins produced by pathogenic bacteria. These types of competition between beneficial and pathogenic bacteria often lead towards a reduction and elimination of harmful bacteria from the animal’s body.
HOW DO I KNOW WHICH PROBIOTICS TO USE?
The methods that commercial probiotic companies use decide which probiotics to use in their products requires a large amount research and selective gene analysis to obtain the exact probiotic species and strain to use. This is extremely critical for the effectiveness of the probiotic since many probiotics often die in the intestinal tract before they have a chance to benefit the animal. For example, you may read on product labels “Lactobacillus acidophilus”, or “Enterococcus faecium” and think that many commercial probiotics products have the same bacteria. This is true for genus and species, however there are many different strains of the same bacteria (characterized by a series of letters or numbers… ex. Lactobacillus acidophilus strain K-258). This is the most important part of the bacteria because many strains DO NOT work under harsh environmental conditions such as an acidic pH in the intestine and often die quickly. The use of specific and correct bacterial strains separate good probiotic products from inferior probiotic products.
Some probiotic companies may also microencapsulate the probiotic product. This microencapsulation helps to protect the bacteria from heat, acids oxygen, and other environmental attacks that can be harmful to the bacteria. Because probiotic species are specific to precise areas of the small intestine and colon, microencapsulation can help selective probiotics reach specific sections of the intestine where they can be the most effective promoting intestinal health.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Probiotics used in the deer industry can have many benefits ranging from increased feed efficiency, to reducing the shedding of pathogenic bacteria. A good product contains multiple, species-specific, microencapsulated probiotics and covers a wide range of health benefits. Today, due to antibiotic resistance, probiotics have been used as an alternative to antibiotics when the bacterial pathogens being treated are located in the digestive tract.
Probiotics are making headway in today’s deer industry, but it is extremely important to understand what type of probiotics you are using and what they can do for your animals. Look into each probiotic company for quality, research and experience. This will give you more confidence and comfort knowing that your deer, and especially little fawns, have the probiotic protection they need.
“I am impressed with the quality of C&E Wildlife Products. I have been raising deer for over 25 years and I am always looking for the best probiotics to use in my herd. Ever since I started using the fawn paste, fawn health and survival rates increased. Using the fawn paste gave us an alternative method for treating illness without having to use antibiotics. All of the C&E Wildlife Products that I use continue to impress me, and they have become a standard in my herd.”
RW Trophy Ranch