Feed for food-producing animals is the most significant component within the global food industry as it is vital to producing enough animal protein for a growing population. Bacteria, fungi, and viruses can contaminate feed and feed ingredients, some being pathogenic. Pathogens linked to feed and feed ingredients are critical to human food safety but also impact the performance of our animal protein production systems. Within the feed and food production chain, there are numerous opportunities for contamination and recontamination of feed. Therefore, feed mill biosecurity is essential to the animal feed industry.
Biosecurity measures are implemented to prevent the introduction and spread of infectious diseases that can devastate animal health and production. Implementing strategies that reduce microbial loads, eliminate pathogens and provide long-term protection against subsequent contamination enhances our food chain's efficiency, productivity, safety and sustainability.
One of the main reasons feed mill biosecurity is critical is the potential for pathogens to be introduced into the feed. Pathogens can be introduced through various sources, including raw materials, equipment, and personnel. Once introduced, pathogens can quickly spread throughout the feed mill and contaminate large quantities of feed, which can then be distributed, causing widespread disease outbreaks in food producing animals. In some cases, these pathogens can be zoonotic, posing threats to animal and human health.
High microbial loads within feed can significantly affect animal performance and productivity. Pathogens in feed can disrupt the microbial balance in the animal's gastrointestinal tract, leading to dysbiosis. When in a state of dysbiosis, our food-producing animals are more susceptible to enteric pathogens, including Necrotic Enteritis, further reducing performance.
To keep it simple – high microbial loads and feed-source pathogens make animal production more expensive. Once pathogens are established within gastrointestinal tracts, they can contribute to horizontal transmission on farms. After all, feed consumed by animals must pass through the gastrointestinal tract; undigested components eventually turn into animal waste, contributing to the microbial balance of the litter.
Reducing the introduction of high microbial loads and feed source pathogens reduces the risk of dysbiosis, further enabling the microbial communities within the gastrointestinal tract to keep pathogenic bacterial populations in check. In doing so, we can hypothesize that keeping pathogenic bacterial populations low reduces the shedding of pathogens via fecal matter into the environment. While pathogens have various routes of entry into the farm, including equipment, humans and rodents – no other controllable fomite has the same continuous impact on operations as feed. Providing animals with clean feed contributes to operational biosecurity, food chain security and is one of the industries most underutilized tool when looking to mitigate pathogen transmission.
Role of Feed Sanitation in Feed Mill Biosecurity
When creating a feed mill biosecurity program, most recommendations include items such as:
- Creating quality control programs with suppliers
- Managing traffic flow of equipment and employees
- Facility hygiene procedures
- Strategies to prevent ingredient and finished feed interaction with wildlife
- Pest control programs
- Storage time requirements for feed
While feed is often mentioned in comprehensive feed mill biosecurity programs, it is typically limited to items stored off the ground in a container away from weather elements or potential contamination from wildlife. However, even in the best storage condition, contaminated raw ingredients and finished feed remains contaminated.
Implementing strategies to keep feed clean requires a solution that:
- Reduces microbial loads in raw ingredients and finished feed
- Eliminates feed source pathogens
- Provides residual protection of feed through prolonged activity
No solution other than a feed sanitizer offers the qualities mentioned above. Feed sanitizers effectively protect feed from microbial contamination and recontamination – keeping feed clean and safe from the point of milling to feeding.
Contact your clean feed expert today to learn more about feed sanitation and how they fit into an effective feed mill biosecurity program.