How can feeding improve animal welfare and health?
First, there is the traditional approach of optimising the feed supply, because a well-nourished animal is healthier and more stable. Beyond that, there are plenty of other options. I like to compare this to the human sphere. What do people do when they are stressed or experience stomach discomfort? They may drink a chamomile tea. Such tried-and-tested natural active ingredients could also help our animals. In the case of humans, we have also recently discovered that a distressed digestive system affects the whole person and increases a person’s susceptibility to depression, due to what we call the gut–brain axis. This confirms how important nutrition is for well-being and health.
Animals too often demonstrate changed eating behaviour when they are unwell. Stress, which can be caused by high temperatures or pregnancy, among other things, often leads to stomach and digestive problems, and negatively affects the gut microflora. We can promote both digestion and the well-being of animals by adding herbal active ingredients to their feed, thus ensuring a healthy stomach. In addition to plant additives—phytogens—it is now standard practice to use probiotics and prebiotics in animal feed, for example.
Probiotics are live microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria or yeasts that have a positive effect on digestion. They foster a good gut microflora and protect against dangerous germs.
Prebiotics are indigestible food components, that is, dietary fibres such as oligosaccharides, found in cereals, fruits and vegetables. They provide the ‘food’ that the ‘good bacteria’ in the digestive system need to live, and induce the formation of these good bacteria.
The current trend is to value the animal as an individual, rather than part of a group. Large corporations are already investing in digital animal production. This means, for example, that sick animals can be identified at an early stage, cared for individually and fed specifically to improve their well-being.