Probiotics - The Good Bugs!


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Beneficial bacteria is good for all animals!

Probiotics -- THE GOOD BUGS

Help Your Horse Avoid Colic & Other Stress Related Maladies
By Twenka Daves

No, it's not a space movie about invading robots, but it is about a beneficial feed available for all livestock, including cattle, horses, llamas, swine, sheep, goats, ratites (Ostriches and Emus), elk, canines, felines, poultry, and the list goes on. Probiotics are non-harmful bacteria, yeasts, fermentation products and enzymes that are fed to improve digestion and absorption of an animals feed. For instance.....the horse. From the newest tiniest foal, to the most distinguished of elders, probiotics play an important part in your feed program.

When a horse eats, his food begins a 100 foot journey through his digestive tract, passing into the stomach, then to the small intestine and finally into the cecum and colon. Millions of bacteria start working on the food in the highly acidic stomach, A fermentation process begins, depending on a delicate balance of "good bugs" and "bad bugs". Both yeast and bacteria synthesize digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These are the "good guys". The "bad guys" bacteria act as natural predators to keep uncontrolled growth of the "good guys" in balance so that the horse maintains an internal equilibrium. As long as a horse is never stressed, never has a change in feed, never needs worming or antibiotic treatment, we would never have to worry about that balance.

As long as the two populations remain in balance and the Ph in the hind gut is stable at a slightly acidic level, the horse is healthy. When this balance is upset, the horse may eat, but be unable to extract the nutrients he needs from his food. This may show up as skin conditions and coat problems, as being a "hard" keeper; or at a more serious level, developing medical problems such as diarrhea, colic or laminitis.

Many things upset the microbial balance in the horses gut. Antibiotics can kill beneficial gut bacteria. Heavy loads of parasites or even the de-wormers used to kill them off can upset the balance. Viruses affect the gut population. More commonly, "good guy" bacteria can die off in response to stress; whether due to foaling, hauling, performing, or being ill.

Elderly horses benefit greatly with the use of probiotics due to the fact they have a reduced digestion of fiber, protein and phosphorus relative to young horses fed the same diet.

Unfortunately, the micro flora balance can be upset in all horses quicker that it can be restored. An abrupt change in feed can cause changes in the hind gut and fecal output within hours. Many of us have seen it when transporting horse or putting them into new situations.

Probiotics can curb the symptoms of severe diarrhea within 24 hours, but it takes about three days to see real changes in the microbial balance, and three weeks to reestablish good gut performance completely. That is why it is difficult to see the benefits of any changes in feed until the horse has been on any new ration for several weeks.

Feeding probiotics introduces extra helpings of beneficial bacteria and yeasts to help the "good guy" microbes keep the upper hand whenever stress or environmental changes might effect the gut. Pathogenic bacteria, such as E.coli, can double their numbers in 10 to 15 minutes; while the beneficial bacteria may only double every 30 minutes or so.

Probiotics come in gels, powders or liquid dispersible forms; and some of the advantages of using them are better hair coats, healthier hooves, better performance, utilization of feed resulting in lower feed costs, less stress, less colic problems, and a general overall increase in health.

To summarize, probiotics are a cheap insurance against digestive distress; especially for horses with a heavy workload, on antibiotics, being used for breeding, or being shipped often.

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