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Optimizing Animal Production: The Role of Gut Health in Animal Welfare and Sustainable Practices

In the realm of animal nutrition and production, a profound understanding of the relationship between gut health, animal welfare, and sustainable production is essential. This interconnection is central to advancing the livestock and poultry production industry in a manner that benefits not only animal health, performance, and wellbeing; but also environmental sustainability and industry-wide progress.

The Crucial Triad in Animal Production

Gut health stands at the forefront of the elements required for optimal animal production. It is pivotal for efficient nutrient absorption and immune system function, as highlighted by a number of research and field trials.7 A healthy gut microbiome aids in disease prevention and reduces reliance on antibiotics, aligning with antibiotic stewardship efforts. This aspect of health is also directly linked to improved performance, as a well-functioning gut correlates with lower incidences of gastrointestinal ailments and reduces overall disease susceptibility.6 Furthermore, the welfare of animals is intricately connected to their gut health, with a preventative approach adhering to ethical rearing practices and a lesser need for stressful medical interventions.9

Sustainable and proactive production practices emphasize resource efficiency and minimal environmental impact, alongside maintaining high productivity. Here, efficient feed conversion is key. Improving feed efficiency lowers production costs and environmental impact by reducing waste. Minimizing antibiotic usage in animal production is also critical for sustainability, as overuse leads to resistant bacteria, posing a threat to both animal and human health. Thus, strategies that enhance natural immunity, such as improving gut health, are vital.2

Strategies for Enhancing Gut Health

The early life stages of animals are critical for establishing gut health. Thus, providing the right mix of nutrients and beneficial gut bacteria early on sets the stage for long-term health, productivity, and welfare.5,8

To further this goal, incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into animal feed is a strategic move. These additives help balance gut microflora, improve nutrient absorption, and bolster the immune system.3 This approach also contributes to reducing antibiotic usage by fostering a naturally pathogen-resistant gut environment.4 Fostering a healthy gut also means ensuring healthy inputs are available for your animals – namely, feed and water. It’s critical for animal health and productivity to ensure a consisently clean water supply and feed that is free of contaminants, like mold, mycotoxins, and oxidized fat.

Despite the initial costs associated with enhancing gut health, the long-term economic benefits, such as enhanced feed conversion, must be considered. Ongoing research in animal nutrition and gut health is uncovering cost-effective strategies that promote gut health while being financially viable.


The future of the animal production industry hinges on approaches that recognize the interdependence of gut health, animal welfare, and sustainable production practices. Embracing innovations and ongoing research in this field is crucial to meet the rising demand for protein responsibly.

In summary, focusing on gut health through improved nutrition and preventive strategies can significantly enhance animal welfare and promote sustainable production practices. Learn more about gut health solutions for your herd or flock at




1Celi, P.; Cowieson, A. J.; Fru-Nji, F.; Steinert, R. E.; Kluenter, A. M.; Verlhac, V., 2017: Gastrointestinal functionality in animal nutrition and health: New opportunities for sustainable animal production. Animal Feed Science and Technology., 234, 88–100.
2Chase, C. C. L., 2018: Enteric Immunity: Happy Gut, Healthy Animal. Veterinary Clinics of North America - Food Animal Practice., 34, 1–18.
3Di Gioia, D.; Biavati, B., 2018: Probiotics and prebiotics in animal health and food safety: conclusive remarks and future perspectives. Probiotics and prebiotics in animal health and food safety., 269–273.
4Guevarra, R. B.; Lee, J. H.; Lee, S. H.; Seok, M. J.; Kim, D. W.; Kang, B. N.; Johnson, T. J.; Isaacson, R. E.; Kim, H. B., 2019: Piglet gut microbial shifts early in life: causes and effects. Journal of animal science and biotechnology., 10, 1–10.
5Kogut, M. H.; Arsenault, R. J., 2016: Editorial: Gut Health: The New Paradigm in Food Animal Production. Frontiers in Veterinary Science., 3.
6Kogut, M. H.; Yin XiaoNan, Y. X.; Yuan JianMin, Y. J.; Broom, L., 2017: Gut health in poultry. CABI Reviews., 1–7.
7Mach, N.; Berri, M.; Estellé, J.; Levenez, F.; Lemonnier, G.; Denis, C.; Leplat, J.; Chevaleyre, C.; Billon, Y.; Doré, J., 2015: Early‐life establishment of the swine gut microbiome and impact on host phenotypes. Environmental microbiology reports., 7, 554–569.
8Paz, I. C. de L. A.; de Lima Almeida, I. C.; de La Vega, L. T.; Milbradt, E. L.; Borges, M. R.; Chaves, G. H. C.; dos Ouros, C. C.; da Silva, M. I. L.; Caldara, F. R.; Andreatti Filho, R. L., 2019: Productivity and well-being of broiler chickens supplemented with probiotic. Journal of Applied Poultry Research., 28, 930–942.

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