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Lifetime Varium® Supplementation Benefits Broiler Health and Producer Profits

Enteric disease costs the poultry industry billions of dollars each year and has become a greater challenge to control due to the reduction in the use of antibiotic growth promoters. However, research has shown that feeding the mineral-based feed additive Varium® (available in select international markets) throughout a broiler’s lifetime can help them naturally defend against the production-limiting effects of pathogens and improve overall bird performance, leading to greater profitability for producers.

Lifetime Benefits of Varium®

Keeping the intestinal environment of birds healthy, thereby allowing effective nutrient absorption and defense against pathogens and their toxins, is an important component of profitable antibiotic-free production. Amlan has developed a range of natural mineral-based products, like Varium, that are designed to support a healthy intestinal environment and add value for poultry producers.

Varium is a synergistic formulation of our proprietary mineral technology, whole yeast and a functional amino acid that promotes efficiency and productivity in poultry. Feeding Varium throughout the lifetime of the bird can help reduce pathogenic challenges, strengthen the intestinal barrier and safely stimulate the intestinal immune system to naturally defend against disease.

Long-Term Studies Demonstrate Varium Benefits

The ability of Varium to improve production performance was demonstrated in two studies. In a 42-day broiler study, birds were fed either a standard diet (control), a diet supplemented with the antibiotic bacitracin methylene disalicylate (BMD; 55 g bacitracin/MT of feed), or a diet supplemented with Varium (0.25%). All birds were given typical vaccinations on day of hatch.

Varium showed similar performance advantages to BMD over the control group. Feed conversion was 1.69 for both the Varium and BMD groups and 1.73 for the control group (Figure 1). Similarly, weight gain was greater for the BMD and Varium groups compared to the control (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Broilers fed Varium or BMD had similar feed conversion ratio and weight gain (kg) and were better than the control in a 42-day study.


In another study, Varium was compared to tylosin in a commercial broiler grow-out operation in Brazil that processes approximately 170,000 birds per day. Tylosin (55 ppm) and an enzyme-based mycotoxin deactivator were added to the diet for 12 months then removed from the diet and Varium (0.1%) added for the following 12 months. No significant differences were observed between the tylosin plus mycotoxin binder and Varium for average body weight, average age at processing, average daily gain, feed conversion rate (FCR), performance efficiency index (PEI) or mortality (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Varium performed similar to tylosin plus a mycotoxin binder in a commercial poultry operation over a 12-month period.


Varium Provides Producers a Return on Their Investment

These long-term studies demonstrate the benefit of daily Varium supplementation to support the health and performance of broilers. However, with feed being approximately 70% of production costs, it is also important to ensure that feed additives are economically viable. Therefore, the cost advantage of lifetime Varium supplementation was calculated.

A broiler economic evaluation model was developed based on a trial conducted by a broiler producer in Brazil. One group of birds (control) were fed an antibiotic growth promoter (AGP) and a non-Amlan mycotoxin binder and another group were fed Varium (the AGP and mycotoxin binder were replaced by Varium in the diet). The study was conducted at three farms with 30,000 control and 30,000 Varium-fed broilers on each farm (total of 90,000 control and 90,000 Varium-fed birds).

Input amounts for chick cost, grower payment per kg, catch and haul cost per kg and overhead cost per kg were the same for both groups. Normal production key performance indicators were measured and showed a noticeable improvement in FCR and livability for Varium-fed broilers (Table 1). The economic model showed that Varium improved profit per kg live weight by 1.03 cents and profit per kg eviscerated carcass by 1.43 cents, which contributes to a significant improvement in the overall profitability of the operation.

Table 1: Varium provides a significant economic advantage when used throughout the lifetime of broilers.

For more details on the calculations used in this model, contact


This economic model demonstrates that adding Varium to a broiler diet can provide a substantial return on investment for poultry producers. Feeding Varium throughout the lifetime of the bird, not just during periods of highest risk for disease challenge, can help support a functional intestinal environment that keeps birds healthy and producing efficiently. For more information on Varium, contact your local Amlan representative.

Varium® Improves Performance in Commercial Broilers Compared to an Antibiotic Growth Promoter

Varium Product Blog

Varium was developed to provide poultry producers with a product to improve production by optimizing gut health. One of the ways this can be shown is by improvements in feed conversion. Because feed costs are such a large part of the cost of poultry production, any improvement in feed conversion can have a big impact on the bottom line. Additionally, decreasing the amount of feed used to produce a kilogram of meat increases the sustainability of the operation, which is very important in today’s world.

Varium, available in select international markets, has multiple modes of action to increase its ability to improve performance. It was designed to protect against biotoxins ​in the lumen of the gastrointestinal tract and keep them from entering the body, to energize the epithelial cells that line the intestine, and help the immune system prepare to respond to antigens. ​Over the years numerous controlled experiments have shown that Varium improves feed conversion under a variety of conditions. A meta-analysis of this research was presented at the Poultry Science Association’s 2nd Latin American Scientific Conference in Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil. This summary of multiple experiments showed that feeding Varium resulted in broiler performance that was equal to that obtained when an antibiotic growth promoter was fed, this was seen both in birds that were challenged with the bacterium Clostridium perfringens to induce necrotic enteritis and in unchallenged birds. When both the antibiotic and Varium were fed together it improved the feed conversion ratio even more (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Varium improved Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) compared to unchallenged or challenged control, equal to the antibiotic growth promoter (AGP).

Since that time, information from the field has shown that feeding Varium resulted in less damage to the intestine of commercial broilers and improved villi height/crypt depth, which correlated to improved overall feed conversion (Lima, Peru).

In 2022, a large commercial study was run in southern Brazil. The study used approximately 180,000 broilers from three farms with each farm feeding one house a control diet with their standard feed containing a mycotoxin binder and enramycin, an antibiotic used as a feed additive to prevent necrotic enteritis. A second house had those ingredients removed and 0.1% Varium was added. The chicks that were supplied to the farms for evaluation were from breeders of the same age. Every week a sample weight was measured in each barn and mortalities were tabulated. Birds were harvested at 47.29 days for the Control birds and 47.17 days for the Varium fed birds (Figure 2). With a daily weight gain of 69.60 g for the Control birds and 70.62 g for the Varium fed birds.

Figure 2. Body weight (kg) for broilers fed 0.1% Varium compared to broilers fed feed containing a mycotoxin binder and the antibiotic enramycin.

Weekly mortality, cumulative mortality, and transport mortality were all lower when birds were fed Varium compared to those fed the antibiotic (Figure 3). Overall feed conversion was 1.717 for the Control birds and 1.671 for the birds fed Varium; an advantage for birds fed Varium of 4.6 points.

Figure 3. Mortality was lower for birds fed Varium each week and cumulatively by week. Final mortality included birds that died during transportation to harvest.

Feed conversion was 1.717 for the Control birds and 1.671 for the Varium fed birds, an advantage of 4.6 points (Figure 4). When the feed conversion was adjusted to a common ending weight of 3.25 kg adjusted feed conversion was 1.706 for the Control birds and 1.643 for the Varium fed birds, an advantage of 6.3 points for the Varium fed birds.

Figure 4. Feed conversion improved when broilers were fed Varium versus an antibiotic, both for overall or when adjusted to a final weight of 3.25 kg.

The 2022 Brazilian study shows that feeding Varium can improve efficiencies and performance, which are critical to increasing profits. In this case, the added annual profit for a producer processing 1 million birds per week would equate to approximately USD 6 million. Using an estimated price for the control diet of USD 375 and USD 380 for the Varium diet, the return on the cost of adding Varium vs the antibiotic control diet is approximately 4 to 1.

To learn more about improved performance with Varium and how to request a field trial, contact your local Amlan representative.

An AGP Alternative That Really IS an Alternative

Varium logo with chickens in the background.

Source:, 5 Jan 2022

A natural feed additive that yields performance results comparable to AGP use? It really does exist. Varium® supports a healthy intestinal tract AND can help provide production economics similar to antibiotic-fed birds.

Read the full article from The Poultry Site.

Exploring Necrotic Enteritis: Cause, Effects and Solutions

Computer generated illustration necrotic enteritis

Necrotic enteritis is a common infectious disease that costs the poultry industry billions of dollars each year. With more and more poultry production systems moving toward the global objective of reduced in-feed use of antibiotics for growth promotion, maintaining a healthy intestinal environment now relies more heavily on other management methods to reduce the risk of necrotic enteritis development. Keep reading to learn more about the origins of necrotic enteritis, the relationship between necrotic enteritis and coccidiosis, and management of the disease risk in ABF production systems.

C. perfringens: The Cause of Necrotic Enteritis

Necrotic enteritis is caused by Clostridium perfringens types A and C: gram-positive, spore-forming anerobic bacteria. C. perfringens can be found throughout the poultry house environment and has spores which, under the right environmental conditions, can survive for long periods outside the bird. The normal microbiota of the bird contains C. perfringens, so its presence alone doesn’t necessarily indicate an issue. Instead, disease occurs when predisposing conditions in the bird cause overgrowth of the pathogen. There are multiple factors that can contribute to C. perfringens overgrowth including diet changes, immune status and stress, intestinal pathophysiology and concurrent infection with coccidiosis.

Multiple exotoxins can be produced by C. perfringens, including alpha-toxin and necrotic enteritis toxin B-like toxin (NetB). Alpha-toxin is cytotoxic to endothelial cells, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, whereas NetB toxin forms pores in cell membranes that allows electrolytes to rupture cells, causing cell death and necrotic lesions in the small intestinal mucosa. These two toxins are known to have a role in necrotic enteritis development.

Impaired Nutrient Adsorption

In healthy birds, the epithelium and mucus layer of the intestine form a selective barrier between internal tissues and the external environment (the intestinal lumen). The natural barrier allows nutrients through the intestinal wall but not pathogens and their biotoxins. When there is an overgrowth of C. perfringens, there is a breakdown of the defensive barrier. The damage to the intestinal wall hinders nutrient digestion and absorption and can allow toxins to enter the circulatory system.

Necrotic enteritis can present as either clinical or subclinical disease. The clinical form is characterized by high mortality, whereas subclinical disease causes decreased weight gain and increased feed conversion ratio (FCR). The increased FCR is due to the reduced nutrient digestibility and adsorption, resulting in compensatory feed intake.

Coccidiosis Can Increase Necrotic Enteritis Incidence

Coccidiosis is another common disease in poultry that causes a significant negative economic impact on production. It is an enteric disease caused by parasitic protozoa in the Eimeria genus. Part of the Eimeria life cycle includes invading intestinal epithelial cells, damaging the intestinal wall barrier. The damage that coccidia cause to intestinal epithelial cells promotes invasion by C. perfringens (as well as other pathogens), increasing the incidence of necrotic enteritis.

Necrotic Enteritis in Antibiotic-Free Production

Managing necrotic enteritis in an ABF production system requires detailed strategies including the use of vaccinations, diagnostic tools and natural feed additives. In some production systems, ionophores used to control coccidiosis may also be eliminated, which further heightens the importance of other management practices that keep birds free of diseases like coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis.

Management practices, such as biosecurity, sanitation, water quality and air quality, also require increased planning and monitoring in ABF systems. Reduced ventilation, increased litter moisture and poor husbandry can increase the incidence of necrotic enteritis. The quality and sanitation of eggs in the hatchery also needs to be managed well in ABF systems, so that birds have a healthy start to life.

Necrotic Enteritis Control Solutions

Along with management best practices, natural feed additives such as Varium® and Calibrin®-Z are available to help reduce the incidence of necrotic enteritis. Varium, a natural patented mineral-based feed formulation, can reduce challenges from pathogenic bacteria and their toxins, strengthen the intestinal barrier and activate the innate immune system to naturally defend against disease. In high challenge environments, Calibrin-Z, a broad spectrum biotoxin control feed additive, can be used on top of Varium to reduce the level of pathogens in the intestines that cause mortality, wet droppings, reduced feed efficiency and damage the integrity of the intestine.

Necrotic enteritis is a challenging disease for poultry producers, particularly those using an ABF production system. However, with best practice management strategies and inclusion of feed additives that promote intestinal health and function, poultry flock health can be improved, thereby reducing the risk of disease and maximizing production efficiency. To learn more about necrotic enteritis, keep checking the Education Center for other posts in the necrotic enteritis series.  


Chi, F. A Viable Adjunct or Alternative to Antibiotics: Meta-Analysis of Broiler Research Shows Natural Growth Promoter Delivers Feed Efficiency Equal to Antibiotics, Amlan International.

Intestinal Health Is Key for Maximizing Production Value and Efficiency

Computer-generated illustration of gut bacteria.

A healthy, functional gastrointestinal tract that defends against pathogens and their toxins is essential for achieving peak performance in poultry and livestock. Intestinal diseases in protein production cause billions of dollars in economic loss each year, so finding effective methods to proactively protect the intestinal environment is an important task for producers, particularly for antibiotic-free (ABF) systems. Understanding how intestinal function affects the production efficiency and overall health of poultry and livestock is the first step in finding solutions to support a healthy intestinal environment. Watch our educational animated video here or read below to learn more.

Intestinal Function and Anatomy

The intestines are covered with finger-like structures called villi that increase the surface area of the intestine and whose primary function is nutrient absorption (Figure 1). The villi and the underlying tissue are also home to vast numbers of immune cells. Lining the villi are enterocytes: cells that use microvilli to absorb nutrients from the intestinal lumen into the circulatory system.

Between the enterocytes are tight junctions that regulate intestinal permeability. The enterocytes form the one-cell-thick intestinal wall which, together with a mucus covering, act as a barrier between the lumen contents and the rest of the body. To function correctly, the enterocytes need to be healthy, properly nourished and energized.

Illustration of a healthy intestine.
Figure 1: Anatomy of a healthy intestine

Defend Against Pathogen Invasion

The intestine does more than aid digestion and absorption; it acts as a gatekeeper, protecting the body against harmful pathogens and their toxins. The mucus and enterocytes that line the intestine form a barrier and are the first line of defense against the external environment. Therefore, if the intestinal environment is unhealthy and not functioning correctly, it can have a negative impact on multiple systems in the body.

In normal production settings, birds and livestock are exposed to pathogens through feed and the environment. Some pathogens are destroyed by the acidic environment of the stomach; however, some survive and establish within the microbiota of the small intestine. An imbalanced intestinal environment can result in an overgrowth of pathogens, which triggers the response that can lead to enteric disease (e.g., necrotic enteritis) or prevents animals from reaching their maximum production potential. 

Once established, virulent strains of bacteria can secrete potent toxins during rapid cellular growth and metabolism. Lipid-like toxins can also be released from bacterial cell walls when bacteria die, either naturally, from antibiotic use or due to the immune response. The toxins disrupt the tight junctions and trigger enterocyte death, causing breakdown of the protective intestinal barrier (Figure 2). The barrier breakdown impedes nutrient digestion and adsorption, limits organ function and allows toxins to enter the circulatory system.

Illustration of an unhealthy intestine.
Figure 2: A weakened intestinal barrier where bacteria and toxins have overcome the cellular defense mechanisms and weakened enterocytes cannot effectively function.

Natural Solutions to Maintain Intestinal Health

With the increase in antibiotic-free production systems, maintaining a healthy intestinal environment now requires a natural method to reduce the levels of pathogens in the intestinal environment. Amlan’s patented, natural mineral-based formulations, Varium® for poultry and NeoPrime® for swine, modify the intestinal environment by reducing pathogenic bacteria and their toxins, stimulating innate immune function and energizing enterocytes to create a strong intestinal barrier.

When Varium or NeoPrime are added to diets, pathogens and their toxins in the intestinal lumen are bound by Amlan’s proprietary, thermally activated mineral technology. The bound pathogens are then safely presented to the immune system via intestinal microfold (M) cells. Immune cells process these antigens and create more immune cells to naturally defend against invasion.

By presenting the bound antigens safely to the immune system before it is overwhelmed by high levels of pathogenic challenge, the immune system is thermally activated and prepared to mount a proper defense. After the pathogenic or toxin challenge is reduced, strengthening the epithelial cells that line the intestinal tract and keeping pathogens and toxins outside the body helps provide additional protection.

Maintaining a healthy intestinal environment is key to helping livestock and poultry perform to their maximum potential. Amlan can help, with next-generation mineral technology that reduces pathogenic challenges, strengthens the intestinal barrier and primes the immune system to naturally defend against disease. For more information, visit

Varium®: An Effective Alternative to AGPs for Poultry Immunity and Intestinal Integrity

Computer-generated illustration of intestinal bacterial activity in poultry.

Protecting gut health, maximizing feed efficiency and increasing growth rates in poultry has traditionally been achieved with antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs). But with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and consumer demand for antibiotic-free (ABF) protein, the worldwide poultry industry is migrating toward ABF production systems. Poultry producers today need viable, profitable and natural alternatives to AGPs that can help maintain gut health, support efficient feed use and promote growth.

Varium® is a natural performance additive that enhances multiple aspects of the intestinal environment, creating production results consistent with those observed with AGP use. In the intestinal lumen, Varium reduces levels of pathogenic bacteria and their toxins, protecting the intestinal lining from attack. Varium also acts an enterocyte energy source, fostering healthy and strong enterocytes that can better absorb nutrients and support growth. Additionally, Varium stimulates the innate immune system to help birds naturally defend against pathogens. Continue reading to view the research demonstrating the beneficial effects Varium has on poultry immunity and intestinal integrity.

Improved Immune Competence

Birds with a healthy gut have a competent immune system that responds appropriately and is less susceptible to disease-causing bacteria and viruses. In a study conducted with Salmonella-challenged broilers at Imunova Análises Biológicas (Curitiba, Brazil), Varium helped restore immune competence and ultimately favored the development of appropriate defenses against the pathogen. The improved immune competence was demonstrated by the apparent prevention of cytotoxic T cell terminal activation (CD8+CD28 phenotype) which, when it occurs in large numbers, can render the immune system less responsive and competent in fighting against pathogen infections. Varium also restored major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC II) expression, essential for the stimulation of an antigen‑specific immune response, and increased monocyte phagocytic activity compared to the Salmonella-challenged control group. For further details of this study, contact Amlan (

Responsive to Immune System Stimuli

The ability of the immune system to prevent pathogens from establishing a successful infection is vital to keeping birds healthy and productive. The immune response to various stimuli was assessed in two Varium field trials by measuring the antibody titer from two common vaccines and assessing the prevalence of bacteria in the small intestines and digesta.

In a field trial conducted at a commercial farm in Vietnam, broilers were fed a basal diet and coccidiostat with either enramycin (at the manufacturer’s recommended dose) or Varium (0.1%) for the first 28 days. From day 29 to the end of study (either day 35 or 42), the control broilers were fed the basal diet only and the Varium group was fed the basal diet plus Varium (0.1%). Sub-samples from randomly selected birds were obtained and the data analyzed at Nong Lam University, Ho Chi Minh City.

In this trial, the infectious bronchiolitis virus (IBV) antibody titer of Varium-fed broilers was significantly increased on day 15 (P < 0.05 vs. antibiotic-fed control) and similar on day 35 to the antibiotic-fed control. Newcastle disease virus (NDV) titers were also similar on days 15 and 35 in the control and Varium groups. Antibody titers indicate the strength of the acquired immune response to vaccination. These results show that Varium can stimulate an antibody production response to vaccination that is the same as or better than broilers fed AGPs.

In another trial conducted at a university in Pakistan, broilers were fed either an AGP (zinc bacitracin, 0.01%) or Varium (0.10%) for 35 days. Varium fed birds had a higher (P < 0.05) concentration of the beneficial bacteria Lactobacilli and a lower concentration of the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella in the small intestine and digesta. This demonstrates that Varium in the diet was able to maintain a healthier intestinal microbiota. The antibody titer for NDV was also greater for Varium-fed broilers than control birds (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Newcastle disease virus (NDV) antibody titer (by hemagglutination inhibition assay) was significantly higher (P < 0.05) in Varium-fed broilers than AGP-fed broilers on day 20 (14 days after first vaccination [intraocular and subcutaneous]) and day 35 (14 days after second vaccination [oral booster]). Different letters indicate significant differences (P < 0.05) between groups within day.

Improved Intestinal Integrity

Along with immune competence, the structure and functional integrity of the intestine is also key to reducing the risk of infection. A healthy intestinal tract and competent immune system improve the ability of the bird to block the invasion of pathogens into intestinal epithelial cells and the circulatory system.

In the Imunova Análises Biológicas study, use of a fluorescent marker demonstrated that on days 4 and 8, the increased intestinal permeability observed in the Salmonella-challenged control was mitigated with the addition of Varium to the diet (Figure 2). The reduced permeability confirmed that Varium helped maintain the structural and functional integrity of the intestinal barrier. Varium also effectively reduced excessive migration and infiltration of lymphocytes into the cecal wall, which helped dampen the inflammatory damage and improved intestinal integrity seen in Varium-treated broilers.

Figure 2: Intestinal integrity as measured by the passage of a marker. Salmonella infection resulted in increased passage of a marker from the intestine to blood on days 4 and 8 following bacterial challenge, indicating impaired mucosal integrity. Compared to the Salmonella-infected control, Varium effectively mitigated increased intestinal permeability on days 4 and 8 (P < 0.05 vs. infected control). Different letters indicate significant differences (P < 0.05) between groups within day.

Necrotic Enteritis Scores

The reduction in AGP use has triggered an increase in the occurrence of necrotic enteritis in poultry flocks. Necrotic enteritis is caused by Clostridium perfringens and can cause significant production losses. In the trials conducted in Pakistan and Vietnam, the intestinal lesion score was not different between the Varium and antibiotic-fed groups, indicating that Varium was able to reduce the occurrence of necrotic enteritis to the same extent as the AGP.

Figure 3: Necrotic enteritis lesion score (Day 35) was numerically lower in broilers fed Varium versus broilers fed AGPs.

Varium: Feed Efficiency for Poultry

These trials demonstrated that replacing AGPs in broiler diets with Varium can maintain the immune response and intestinal integrity observed with AGP use and can also potentially improve them. Varium also helped restore the immune response in pathogen-challenged broilers. The direct benefits of the immunity and intestinal integrity results in the field trials was confirmed with growth performance being similar or better than broilers fed AGP. For more information on how Varium improves productivity visit,

Brazilian Cooperative featured in “Innovation Nation” Episode


In educating consumers about the value and uses for natural mineral additives, Amlan is also focusing on ways to support integrators who are moving to antibiotic-free (ABF) production to meet consumer and regulatory demands.

In the August 30, 2020, episode of “Built in America: INNOVATION NATION” on the Fox Business Network, millions of viewers in the U.S. went behind the scenes at Amlan International to learn about the company’s extensive research into minerals and animal health. Through this research, Amlan’s patented products and mineral technologies aim to solve many problems in the livestock industry and more.

“We were incredibly honored to host the show and share how our products are part of the very diverse food supply chain to the public,” says Flemming L. Mahs, President of Amlan International. “We are proud of our extensive R&D team and are committed to creating a safe, nutritious food system.”

The show interviewed Amlan employees, industry leaders and walked through the many research laboratories at the Richard M. Jaffee Center for Applied Microbiology to understand what goes into their animal health product research. Watch the episode here.

In the episode, Dr. Glauber Sartori Maier, Animal Nutritionist for Coasul Cooperativa Agroindustrial, an agricultural cooperative with 9,000 associates in 28 cities in the southern part of Brazil, shared his company’s experiences incorporating Varium® as they moved to antibiotic-free poultry production.

Dr. Maier emphasizes the urgency of adopting innovative technology to produce enough quality food, at acceptable prices, for a growing world population. He says that Coasul exports nearly 30 million birds per year, which is about 60 percent of their total annual production. The company made adjustments to its production practices to accommodate global market demand for poultry raised without antibiotics.

“I have no doubt that antibiotic-free production will continue to grow in the world. It’s much easier to grow birds without the use of antibiotics to promote growth than producers realize,” Maier says.

When moving to ABF, Maier says it is important to make sure every other aspect of production is on point. Here are three areas that changed for Coasul:

  1. Gut health is the key starting point. Improving feed conversion and production efficiency allowed birds to grow to the same weight with less feed.
  2. Drier litter is also a result of improving gut health. Drier litter in chicken houses improves the health and quality of chicken feet, which is a very profitable, high-demand product in China.
  3. Healthy birds are calmer. In general, healthier animals are less likely to peck or scratch other birds, which helps ensure the highest standards of meat quality and skin.

“Many producers are afraid to stop using antibiotics because they believe the performance of the animals will decline and it will result in spending more money to produce the same quantity of meat. In our case, the results are better using Varium, and our costs are lower,” Maier says.

For more information about transitioning to AFP in poultry, read these other blogs from Amlan International:

Strategies for Producing Antibiotic-Free Poultry
Efficiently Raising Antibiotic-Free Broilers
Natural Growth Promoter for Poultry Demonstrates 10:1 ROI, Better Than Antibiotics Alone

Efficiently raising antibiotic-free broilers

Varium Broilers Misset

Broiler growers worldwide are under pressure to reduce or eliminate growth-promoting antibiotics from bird diets. Promoting intestinal health through improved nutrition and immune system stimulation can help producers successfully replace or reduce antimicrobials without sacrificing bird health or performance.

Source: All About Feed (, Antibiotic Reduction Special Edition, Dec 2019


Completely removing or significantly reducing the use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) raises many issues for broiler producers. Their foremost concerns are whether their grow-out operations can remain competitive, profitable and free from performance-robbing intestinal diseases like necrotic enteritis.

Broiler growers moving to antibiotic-free poultry production now have the advantage of hindsight, unlike those who were impacted by the first antibiotic bans of 20-plus years ago.

Since then, many compounds have been studied for their ability to replace AGPs. Prebiotics, probiotics, enzymes, organ- ic acids, minerals and other additives can be used successfully to manage gut health instead of AGPs. But, and this is a big ca- veat, these products are often used in combination and in- crease feed costs. Formulated feed additives that combine the right ingredients to replace one or more other additives and help birds grow efficiently may be just what today’s broiler producers need. Certain formulated feed additives are de- signed to use different and (ideally) synergistic modes of ac- tion to achieve desired responses. Such products are typically tested by a team of specialists to determine the optimal for- mulation so growers don’t have to experiment. Those factors help formulated products deliver value.

Intestinal health is critical

A healthy gut is essential to a healthy bird. However, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the site of substantial disease challenges, including pathogens like Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli and Salmonella spp. An effective antibiotic alternative should demonstrate activity in three areas:

  1. The intestinal lumen to reduce bacterial disease challenges,
  2. The intestinal epithelium to strengthen the intestinal barrier,
  3. The gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) to stimulate immune function.

Varium is used worldwide in antibiotic-free poultry production to achieve equivalent outcomes as AGPs, often replacing one or more additional feed additives being used as replacements to AGPs. Multiple controlled studies and field trials demon- strate that Varium, a proprietary formulated feed additive, can replace some or all AGPs use in broiler diets. The components of the all-natural product work synergistically to provide a multifaceted approach to supporting intestinal health and im- munity, promoting efficient feed use and improving overall flock performance, see Figure 1. Those mechanisms of action support bird intestinal health and efficiency by:


  1. Reducing total biotoxin load, which helps protect intestinal homeostasis,
  2. Reducing pathogen load through type-1 fimbriae bacterial adhesion,
  3. Providing enterocytes with a preferred energy source, which enhances the intestinal barrier,
  4. Stimulating the innate and adaptive immune responses to help birds defend against pathogens.

Trials find comparable performance

For broiler producers seeking evidence-based options, pre- adoption trial data from commercial broiler producers in Brazil demonstrate how Varium performs alone or in combi- nation with other feed additives. In a 40-day feeding trial conducted under natural challenge, 2,400 day-old chicks were assigned to one of four treatments (Table 1).

In addition to the specified treatments, all diets included common anti- coccidial treatments. Captured and calculated data included body weight, feed intake, mortality, feed conversion ratio (FCR) and percent mortality. Broilers fed diets containing Varium alone or in combination with other additives had weight gain and FCR comparable to those fed a diet contain- ing two antibiotics, a mycotoxin binder and a probiotic. No significant differences in day-40 weight gain or FCR were de- tected among treatments. However, mortality at day 40 was substantially lower for broilers consuming Varium in their di- ets. Broilers fed diets containing Varium had higher produc- tion efficiency indices (PEI) than the control group. A second trial in Brazil compared the performance of Varium to Tylosin when fed to birds at a commercial broiler grow-out operation that produced about 170,000 birds per day for slaughter. Tylosin at a rate of 55 ppm was added to diets between August 2017 and July 2018. Tylosin and a an enzyme-based mycotox- in deactivator were then removed and Varium was added at a rate of 0.1% from August 2018 through July 2019.

Captured and calculated data included body weight and age at slaughter, average daily gain, FCR, PEI, mortality and liver quality. No significant differences were detected between treatments for FCR, average daily gain, average body weight, average age at slaughter, PEI or percent mortality. Interesting- ly, faeces from broilers fed diets containing the feed additive were firmer, resulting in better quality litter than those birds receiving Tylosin in their diets, see Table 2. Better litter quality means decreased incidence of foot pad dermatitis.

Table 1 – Trial results under natural challenge.
Treatments investigated in a 40-day feeding trial with natural challenge
Treatment Additives
Control Halquinol + virginiamycin + mycotoxin binder + Bacillus subtilis
Va + H Varium + halquinol + mycotoxin binder + B. subtilis
Va + Vir Varium + virginiamycin + mycotoxin binder + B. subtilis
Varium Varium (1 kg/MT)
Table 2 – Averages of key performance parameters.
Treatment Body weight
Age (d) Daily gain
FCR PEI Mortality
Liver quality

Tylosin + mycotoxin binder
3.070 45.6 67.3 1.68 388 3.80 1.48
Varium 3.041 44.6 68.0 1.63 401 3.84 1.54

Profitable antibiotic-free production

Intestinal health becomes more important to profitable broiler production as AGPs are removed from bird diets. But it takes the right combination of feed ingredients and additives along with many other factors. Varium is helping commercial producers save money by replacing one or more feed addi- tives in broiler diets while maintaining or improving feed conversion and weight gain and decreasing mortality. Efficient broiler production without AGPs is possible.

Natural Growth Promoter for Poultry Demonstrates 10:1 ROI, Better than Antibiotics Alone

Chicks feeding.

CHICAGO, IL—A recent study found that Varium™, the natural growth promoter for poultry from Amlan International, performed better than antibiotics alone, delivering significant reductions in mortality, and improvements in feed conversion and intestinal health, for a 10:1 return on investment.

“As the reduction or elimination of antibiotics in broiler production continues to expand worldwide, Varium is proving to be an effective way to enhance the growth-promoting abilities of antibiotics, or, when used in antibiotic-free production, to achieve bird performance equivalent to flocks receiving sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics,” said Dr. Ron Cravens, President of Amlan International, a Nevada Corporation.

“We’re very pleased our customers’ broilers receiving Varium, experienced improved villi height and a reduction in crypt depth indicating improved intestinal integrity,” said Cravens. “It’s quite notable that an improved European Efficiency Index (EEI) score was also seen, increasing from 350 to 400 points.”

Compared to the control diet that included antibiotics, feeding Varium decreased mortality by 40%, from 6.93% to 4.18%, with improvements seen throughout the growout period, not just in young birds. Feed conversion improved 15 points, from 1.64 to 1.49, with the majority of the gains seen after day 7 and a greater response seen in female broilers.

Varium is a registered product in a variety of countries, including China and Mexico. For a full list of registered countries and a complete study of the results and more information on Varium, please visit Varium is sold outside the U.S.


Reagan Culbertson
(312) 706-3256


Oil-Dri Corporation of America (NYSE: ODC), a Delaware corporation and doing business as “Amlan International,” has grown its product offering across the intestinal health and AGP-alternative market, driven largely by the research conducted in its laboratory campus in Vernon Hills, IL. In 2013, the company’s global reach expanded with the establishment of its China subsidiary in Shenzhen. Further information on Amlan International is available at