Deon Neveling Photo: Supplied
Cape Town – A probiotic for broiler chickens, based on the microbiota from the guts of free-range chickens, has been developed and patented by Stellenbosch University PhD student Deon Neveling, who will graduate with his PhD this month.

According to his supervisor, Professor Leon Dicks, this is the first time that a probiotic for broiler chickens is based on the gut microbiome of free-range, healthy chickens. “In other words, a probiotic for chickens, from chickens,” Dicks said.

Neveling said he collected the discarded guts of free-range chickens that were slaughtered at the university’s Mariendahl experimental farm. He then mashed them into a liquid and plated it on to several hundred petri dishes. 

As soon as the bacteria started growing, he would obtain them in pure culture and identify the species. After eight months, he succeeded in identifying six beneficial bacterial species - each from a specific section of the gut. 

The next step was to test its safety as a feed additive and then its ability to decrease the incidence of salmonella in broiler chickens.

“Worldwide, there is a trend to use probiotics rather than antibiotics to improve the health and survival of broiler chickens. 

"In the EU, for example, the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed has been banned to control natural selection for antibiotic-resistant pathogens, and to ensure that available antibiotics remain effective in the treatment of animal and human infections,” Neveling said.

However, the addition of probiotics to broiler feed is still far from being implemented regularly, mainly due to a lack of in-depth knowledge, Neveling said.