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Improving gut health in poultry and pigs

Improving gut health in poultry and pigs

This newsletter explains how to improve gut health by acidifying feed or drinking water of poultry and pigs. Read through to find more information. 

Gut health is the basis for excellent production performance in poultry and pigs. A healthy intestinal environment:

  • benefits digestion and absorption, 
  • optimizes immune function, 
  • and prevents damage and infection caused by harmful microorganisms (image 1 and 2).
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Image 1 - Inflamed intestinal villi make it easier for harmful micro-organisms to enter the body and bloodstream

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Image 2 - Keprogan and Keprogan Plus support a healthy intestinal environment en prevent infections

The importance of good quality drinking water for gut health


Bad water quality is a serious threat for the health of your animals. The quality of drinking water can vary widely. Groundwater and tap water quality can differ depending on the depth and region from where it is extracted. These differences in quality can affect the solubility and the way in which the medications work (antibiotics and vaccinations). Read more about drinking water quality in this previous newsletter.

Why acidifying drinking water or feed?
One of the possibilities to improve gut health is acidifying drinking water or feed. Acidifying helps to:

  • Improve animals performance:
    • Decreasing pressure on the animals immune system so more nutrients are available for production
    • Low pH in upper digestive or entire digestive system may improve protein digestibility
  • Reduce bacteria populations in the water/feed system and in the animals to prevent disease
  • Reduce scale and biofilm build up in the water system
  • Ensure a successful treatment with oxytetracyclines

Coated or uncoated: different methods to acidify 
There are different methods to acidify water of feed. You can use uncoated products or coated products.

Uncoated acidifiers:

  • Acidify water (lower the pH) or feed
  • Acidify only the upper digestive system
  • Support digestion

Coated acidifiers:

  • Acidify feed
  • Acidify the whole digestive system
  • Support digestion
  • Stimulate gut cells, enzymes and helpful bacteria in the intestinal system
  • Reduce pathogenic bacteria in entire digestive system

How to choose your method of acidifying?

Acidifying feed is only possible when you mix your own feed, or when you ask your feed producer (feed mill)  to add it. The advantage of acidifying trough feed is that you only have to think of it when preparing the feed. 

If this is not possible at your farm, for instance when you are using a commercial pelleted feed, you can acidify the drinking water. Acidifier through the drinking water should be added every day. When the drinking water is acidified, it is no longer possible to administer other medicines via the drinking water. Below we will explain both methods of acidifying.

How to acidify drinking water?

To acidify drinking water, only uncoated acidifiers can be used. As explained above, acidifying drinking water can support the digestion of the animal. It can also help to reduce the organic contamination of the drinking water. Keprofix Oral is an uncoated acidifier can be used to acidify drinking water.

How to use Keprofix Oral:

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The dosage of Keprofix Oral depending on the hardness of the drinking water is displayed in table 1.

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Table 1 - Dosage of Keprofix Oral depending on the hardness of the drinking water

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Image 4 - Drop test to measure hardness of the water
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Image 5 - Dip sticks to measure the pH value of the water


More about acidifying (hard) water:

The acidity of a solution is expressed by the pH value (image 6). When the hardness of water (the total concentration of calcium and magnesium ions) is 0 and the pH value is neutral, you will not need much uncoated acidifier to acidify. If the hardness of the water is high, you will need more uncoated acidifier to acidify the water (see image 7). The calcium ions in hard water (purple rounds in image 7) adsorb the acids. When all the calcium ions are  accompanied with an acid (H+ ion), the water starts to acidify.

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Image 6 - The pH scale with examples

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Image 7 - Acidifying hard water


More about Keprofix Oral:

Keprofix Oral helps:

  • To prevent bacterial diseases in poultry like E. Coli, because of the essential oil (read below)
  • To reduce the contamination of drinking water
  • To enhance the digestibility of proteins and thereby improve the feed conversion
  • To use less antibiotics, because Keprofix Oral is an effective alternative for antibiotic growth promotors.

Essential oils
Keprofix Oral contains clove oil, which is an essential oil. Essential oils can make cell walls of bacteria accessible for acids, which enables the acids to kill the bacteria. Also, essential oils act as quorum sensing inhibitors. Quorum sensing (image 8) is the process of bacteria in the body of the animal, which start sending out signals by using pheromones. These signals ensure that all the bacteria of the same sort in the body come together in one place, for example the intestines. It also ensures the bacteria change to a virulent stage, to be able to cause an infection. When quorum sensing inhibitors like essential oils are being used in the feed, the signals (pheromones) are inhibited. By inhibiting these signals, the bacteria do not come together as a group and do not change their status to virulent. In this way, by using essential oils, you can prevent bacterial infections.

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Image 8 - How quorum sensing enables bacteria to cause an infection (click on the picture to enlarge)


How to acidify feed?

Acidifying feed can be done by mixing powder through your own feed or by asking your feed producer (feed mill) to add it. Kepro offers two acidifiers for feed, Keprogan (uncoated) and Keprogan Plus (coated).

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Table 2 - When to choose Keprogan or Keprogan Plus?

More about Keprogan and Keprogan Plus

Both products contain oregano extract (carvacrol an thymol), which are known to improve performance and gut health. Carvacrol and thymol also act as quorum inhibitors (as explained above at ‘Essential oils’). 

Both products also prevent and decrease the adverse effects of coccidiosis in poultry. Image 9 below, shows the effect of Keprogan in preventing coccidiosis, compared to the effect of chemical coccidiostatics. Keprogan shows good results without the harmful residues and possible resistance of coccidiostatics.

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Image 9 - The use of Keprogan decreases oocyst excretion...

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