USING PROBIOTICS could reduce the usage of antibiotic drugs in livestock, scientists in Denmark have claimed.

Bioscience company Chr Hansen have been developing many different strains of friendly bacteria, which they claim, when used in food for pigs and poultry, could work alongside antibiotics and even reduce the need for them.

During a press day at the company's Copenhagen HQ, product manager Jens Jorgensen suggested that, if farmers would see past the cost of using probiotics and see the benefits and potential savings, many illnesses could be prevented.

Said Mr Jorgensen: "If feed prices were to rise by 1p, everyone would shout, but not many farmers know how much they are spending on antibiotics.Using probiotics could reduce this use and save farmers a lot of money."

He believes farmers need to change their mindset about using antibiotics so they are not used to prevent illness, just to cure illnesses that develop. It was all about balancing the intestinal microflora in the animals, explained Mr Jorgensen.

Post weaning piglets often suffer diarrhoea, which Chr Hansen believes is not caused by E Coli or clostridia but by bacterial overgrowth. They insist that using probiotics could help regulate the gastro-intestinal tract of the piglets, making them less susceptible to this type of illness and more able to digest their feed.

The probiotics can also work alongside antibiotics to boost animal performance. If a pregnant sow is fed the probiotic, Chr Hansen claim that it will reduce sow weight loss and the resulting piglet mortality.