Microorganisms in animal nutrition
If animals are to grow and thrive, they need to be well fed. While much of their nutrition is supplied by feed ingredients such as wheat and maize, these lack important nutrients. Therefore, ingredients such as vitamins and minerals are included and also microorganisms are added. In addition, microorganisms are essential in the production of silage for animal feed.
In modern livestock production, pigs, cattle and chickens are often exposed to stressful conditions, which can unbalance their intestinal flora. The result is low weight gain, more frequent diarrhoea and high mortality rates. Lactic bacteria have been shown to restore and maintain balanced intestinal flora in the animals, resulting in better production and improved well-being of the animals.
Lactic bacteria are used in the production of silage, which is fed to ruminant animals such as cows and sheep. This animal feed product is a fermentation of grass, alfalfa or corn, and the bacteria are added to ensure the nutritive elements of these products are preserved. A silo is filled with the crop, and although the bacteria which is naturally present can be sufficient to start the fermentation, bacteria such as Lactobacillus plantarum are usually added. Within two days, an anaerobic fermentation is under way, which converts sugars to acids over a period of about two weeks. Although some of the available energy is lost during fermentation, far more of the crop’s nutrients are retained by converting it to silage than if it had been preserved by drying.