“The success of the poultry industry is mainly based on hepatointestinal health and integrity”
Interview to Alfonso Díaz, veterinarian, zootechnist and poultry farming technical specialist
Alfonso Díaz is a veterinarian and zootechnologist with more than 30 years of experience in the marketing of pharmaceutical and natural veterinary products, both in the poultry and swine sectors. He is currently the general manager of International Pharmacy SAS (INPSAS), a distributor specialized in natural additives for better nutrition and animal health based in Bogotá, Colombia.
Díaz attended the 32nd International Biovet Symposium, held in May 2019 in Tarragona (Spain). He is a technical specialist in poultry farming and his specialty are broiler chicken. For the occasion, Alfonso Díaz conducted the talk “Alquernat Livol Premix: blood biochemical analysis in birds”, scheduled on a session specialized in new applications of pronutrients for the improvement of productive parameters in animal production.
You have more than 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and natural additives sector for poultry and pig farming. In general terms, what has been the evolution of these products in these years?
30 years ago there were only pharmaceutical, biological and nutritional products. No natural products were used in animal production and, much less, as replacement alternatives for traditional antibacterials used as growth promoters.
At present, final consumer’s quality and safety requirements have been definitive for the research, the appearance and further introduction into the veterinary markets of competitive natural products such as pronutrients, essential oils, probiotics and enzymes offering both good technical and economic performance compared to traditional pharmaceutical products.
I understand that there is a difference between plant extracts and pronutrients. Could you clarify to our readers what this fundamental difference is?
Prof. Gordon D. Rosen (1926–2015), a British nutritionist, described pronutrients as “micro-ingredients included in feed in relatively small quantities to improve physiology, feed intrinsic value as well as to prevent the presence of pathogens” .
Plant extracts are generally used for pharmaceutical purposes. They are preparations that allow certain useful substances to be extracted from plants. The effectiveness of the product depends on finding the adequate amount of the specific plant extract that needs to be added.
Given your knowledge of the poultry sector in Colombia and Latin America, which were the problems this industry when you started your professional career and which challenges is it facing nowadays?
Until recently, there was a true abuse in the use of antibacterials in both poultry and swine production industries. In most cases, mixed antimicrobials are still being used without taking into account the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic characteristics of their active substances, nor as aspects of synergy or antagonism between them. In addition, dosages were not given based on the biomass to be treated. All this led to problems of bacterial resistance and to the lack of effectiveness of the products used, as well as problems of bacterial resistance in humans.
With the introduction of these new concepts, such as the use of pronutrients, effective metaphylactic programs can be established. Therefore, enterohepatic health and integrity, and the physiology of organs and the immune system can be improved.
Which are the main problems that affect productivity nowadays in your country’s farms?
The use of antimicrobials in animal production should be focused on the treatment of specific cases, and their selection should also be in accordance with previous laboratory results. In general, the excessive use of antimicrobials has generated the problems mentioned before. However, in Colombia there is currently a strong tendency towards the use natural alternatives, which has led to a significant increase in the supply and diversity of natural additives both imported and also locally produced.
In the European Union, in recent years, we have seen how new legislation has prohibited the prophylactic use of antibiotics. How has it affected – if it has done so – to the animal production sector in Colombia and Latin America?
EU initiatives are well known at the Latin American level, but they tend to take a long time to be implemented. For example, the EU banned the use of Colistin sulfate as a growth promoter several years ago. At the Latin American level, this regulation is just being implemented.
In this context, what would be your prediction for the poultry sector in Colombia and Latin America for the next 5-10 years?
The poultry sector keeps growing in Latin American markets. The most influential factor is the per-capita chicken consumption of chicken meat and eggs meat is still relatively low. That is perhaps the most important opportunity to grow in the coming years.
The presence of mycotoxins in raw materials and animal feed is a latent problem for animal production. In the case of Colombia, how has it affected the productive parameters?
Mycotoxins are a recurring problem worldwide. Colombia is no exception and more if we consider that local corn production is minimal. Therefore, we have to import corn and soybeans from several countries such as the United States, Argentina, Bolivia or Brazil, which lead us to all the problems they are facing regarding raw materials.
You use pronutrients to prevent some of the pathologies found in farms. How would you rate these products?
In both poultry and pig farming we have been using different pronutrients for approximately 14 years, with excellent field results. We establish defined use protocols for each case and carry out the respective field monitoring, including the analysis of zootechnical and economic results, such as return on investment (ROI). Therefore, the end users of these particular natural products can observe benefits they are obtaining by using pronutrients.
Many of your studies have focused on liver and intestinal issues, how have pronutrients helped you with these problems?
Pronutrients contain different bioactive principles that favor hepato-intestinal integrity and functionality, by optimizing their functions, the absorption of nutrients and obtaining better zootechnical results. Thus, as a final result, a better profitability of the poultry and swine operation will be obtained. It can be concluded that the success of the poultry industry is mainly based on hepato-intestinal health and integrity.
What are the advantages of using intestinal conditioners against antibiotic growth promoters?
One one hand, pronutrients favor the absorption of nutrients, do not leave residues in tissues such as meat or eggs, have no withdrawal period, have no restriction of use and are not toxic. In addition, they improve the genetic expression of treated animals. Pronutrients activate the expression of specific proteins, without modifying their organic functions. They improve integrity, functionality and immune response, so a better animal physiology equals to better protection against diseases.
On the other hand, antibiotics restore, correct or modify organic functions. Its mechanism of action is based on an interaction with a receptor, which union gives rise to specific mechanisms. In other words, a modification of the cells and their functions occurs. These modifications take place at the proteins, enzymes and amino acids level and the elimination and blocking of a certain metabolic pathway occurs. They leave residues in tissues and, therefore, need a withdrawal period.
What would you say to those poultry producers who have doubts about using pronutrients over antibiotics?
The human being by nature is afraid of making changes. Initially, technicians and animal producers are generally fearful of the results they can obtain with the use of pronutrients. They obviously have doubts due to their lack of knowledge in this regard. Therefore, they do not want to “take a risk” and prefer to wait expectantly for others to take the initiative. We propose them to carry out small-scale field evaluations on their farms, and gradually extend its use based on the results obtained. Once they see the benefits and profitability obtained, they will expand the use of pronutrients to the entire production.