Probiotics and Drinking Water: How to Ensure Proper Application

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Article | 04.03.2021
When discussing the supplementation of probiotics to animals, attention should be given to the route of application. Most producers logically opt to include the probiotic of choice in the feed, as this reduces the practical workload during the day and eliminates worry about the correct dosing. However, some producers prefer to maintain flexibility, applying probiotics only during challenge periods or choosing a probiotic depending on the challenge at hand.

As a solution, water soluble formulations of probiotic products are interesting to look at. If done correctly, these can easily be applied via the drinking water, allowing producers to supplement their animals during specific periods. When adding probiotics to the drinking water, it is essential to ensure product delivery whilst maintaining water quality, as this can have a big impact on production. To achieve this, there are several important points to keep in mind, which together can help to ensure efficient probiotic application on-farm.

Firstly, the water-soluble probiotic formulation must distribute homogenously throughout the water column. If not, sedimentation of the active probiotic ingredient (spores or vegetative cells, depending on the probiotic used) might occur. When this happens, some of the active might be retained in the water distribution system, resulting in insufficient daily supplementation of the target animals. This was kept in mind when Huvepharma® developed water soluble probiotic formulations: both B-Act® WSP (Bacillus licheniformis) and Top Gut® (Clostridium butyricum) distribute evenly over the water column, ensuring a uniform and consistent product delivery. This was recently put to the test in independent research for both probiotics. The respective water-soluble formulation was added to a water column and samples from the top, middle and bottom of said column were tested 1, 2 and 5 hours after probiotic addition. Results showed that for both formulations, the probiotic spores remained evenly in suspension, showing a homogenous distribution in the drinking water, regardless of location in the water column or tested time point (Figures 1 and 2). 

Figure 1. Spore distribution for B. licheniformis throughout the water column after 1, 2 and 5 hours
Figure 2. Spore distribution for C. butyricum throughout the water column after 1, 2 and 5 hours

Secondly, before applying the probiotic itself, good water quality is paramount. To ensure this, a water quality management plan should be in place. A good program includes testing the water regularly for parameters such as mineral content, hardness, pH and overall bacterial load (evidently before probiotic addition), as well as regular flushing and good sanitation practices. The water management program should not only be in place during production, but also in between production cycles: hygiene is key, and can impact production efficiency greatly. 

Finally, the application of the probiotic needs to fit into the water quality program. This means that the intended probiotic must be applicable in the drinking water, even if that drinking water contains hygienic products during production. This is where the benefit of having a spore-forming probiotic, such as B. licheniformis and C. butyricum in B-Act® WSP and Top Gut®, becomes clear. In their spore form, these probiotics can be combined with most hygienic products, allowing their application without disturbing the hygiene program.

To put this to the test, both B-Act® WSP and Top Gut® were separately added to drinking water containing one of three hygiene products. The products tested were either based on formic acid, hydrogen peroxide or a combination of hydrogen peroxide and phosphoric acid. Trialed hygiene product concentrations included the recommended dose, twice that recommended dose and five times the normal concentration, with water samples being analysed for the respective probiotics after 1, 6 and 24 hours. All tests indicated a good compatibility of the probiotics with the trialed hygiene products, highlighting the ease of use of both B-Act® WSP and Top Gut®. Figure 3 shows the compatibility of B. licheniformis (B-Act® WSP) with the different tested concentrations of the formic acid-based hygiene products, at the three mentioned time points.

Figure 3. B. licheniformis spore count after 1, 6 and 24 hours when combined with different concentrations of a formic acid-based hygiene product

Applying probiotics via the drinking water on-farm can offer a flexible and efficient way of supplementing animals with these beneficial micro-organisms. However, care should be taken when doing so: the probiotic product formulation needs to be adapted to a drinking water application, good water quality needs to be ensured and the probiotic needs to fit into the water management program. As confirmed by independent research, both B-Act® WSP and Top Gut® adhere to these principles. As such, both can be used for a practical on-farm application via the drinking water, supporting production as effectively and easily as their in-feed formulations.


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