How to boost gut health with the power of beneficial bacteria [VIDEO]

Dr. Steve Lerner, Chr. Hansen’s senior scientific and business adviser, discusses the ways probiotics support animal health.

Transcription of Feed Strategy Chat with Dr. Steve Lerner, senior scientific and business adviser, Chr. Hansen

Jackie Roembke, editor-in-chief, WATT Feed Brands and Feed Strategy: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Feed Strategy Chat. I’m your host, Jackie Roembke, editor-in-chief of WATT Feed Brands and Feed Strategy magazine.

This edition of Feed Strategy Chat is brought to you by Chr. Hansen. With an ever-expanding range of probiotics, Chr. Hansen works continuously to develop the products of tomorrow — enabling farmers to produce the high-quality, sustainable and safe food that global consumers demand. The company has the world’s largest commercial bank of bacterial strains — more than 50,000 — and, from this strong foundation, it continues to innovate and produce the best bacterial solutions for cattle, poultry, swine and silage. 

All this is accomplished from its strong platforms in bioscience technologies, combined with extensive research and close dialogue with its customers and business partners.

For more information, visit

Today we’re joined by Dr. Steve Lerner, Chr. Hansen’s senior scientific and business adviser. He’s here to discuss the ways probiotics support animal health.

Hi, Dr. Lerner, how are you today?

Dr. Steve Lerner, senior scientific and business adviser, Chr. Hansen: Hi, Jackie, very happy to be here.

Roembke: Thank you, we're so happy to have you. Well, let's get right into it. Let's actually start at the beginning. Why is gut health so important for animal health?

Lerner: When you think about what happens in the gut, animals are taking in feed every day — we certainly hope so. They want to digest nutrients out of that feed and absorb those nutrients into their body, and that requires a properly functioning digestive system. Without that energy and fuel that comes via their feed, they're not going to survive nor thrive. And, of course, we believe that the greater percentage of healthy, happy animals in any herd, lot, flow or flock, then the greater the likelihood of a positive economic outcome.

The greater the percentage of healthy, happy animals in any population, the more sustainable the operation is.

These are the main drivers why we talk about gut health and the ability to digest and absorb nutrients being so important.

Roembke: We've heard talk about how probiotics are supporting normal. What do you think that phrase means?

Lerner: When we talk about the action of probiotics, we put them into four major areas. First, probiotics very likely can produce digestive enzymes to support digestion of nutrients out of feed. We have great evidence that probiotics can support a normal function of the intestinal lining to ensure absorption. We have evidence that sometimes the surface area for absorption is actually greater in those animals that are being fed effective probiotics. We also know that probiotics can support the barrier function of the gut, keeping things that are moving through that tube that starts at the mouth and ends of the opening of the other end, that don't want to be in our bodies from from going through that tube and serve as a very nice barrier.

Then lastly, we know effective probiotics can support normal immune functions, and about 70% of our immune system lives along the intestinal tract. And if probiotics can support normal immune functions, then animals in our care are better able to defend themselves in times of metabolic stress or environmental stress or emotional stress.

Roembke: Now, there's so many different types of products on the market. How are Chr. Hansen probiotics different than other animal probiotics in the market?

Lerner: Well, we believe wholeheartedly that when it comes to probiotics, it is strain that matters. A strain is an individual organism, and all of its trillions and trillions of nearly identical clonal copies. That is a strain that all manufacturers of probiotics are required to put the genus and species of the organisms on our labels, but genus and species really doesn't do a good job of describing what those organisms can actually do. You and I are both homo sapiens clearly have different genetic gifts that we bring to bear. The same is true for probiotics.

At Chr. Hansen, what I love most is our investment in trying to find strains that have unique sets of genetic gifts that are probiotic in nature, are good enzyme producers, are good producers of antimicrobial peptides, are good at impacting the beneficial balance of the microbiota, all the organisms that live in the gut of an animal. We look for those particular strains that are most efficacious in being probiotic when fed to the variety of animals that we supply.

Our strains are certainly unique and different compared to the strains of our competitors. Now, that's not to say that our competitors don't also have effective probiotics. But what I love is the data that we can use, that we've collected, shows why we've selected those strains.

Then, as you mentioned at the beginning, we have 50,000 strains in our strain bank, and we're constantly looking for the next best probiotic strains to commercialize and bring to the betterment of our customers.

Roembke: Excellent. Thank you so much, Dr. Lerner. If you'd like to learn more about the probiotic insights shared here today, please visit Thanks again, Dr. Lerner, and thanks to you for tuning in.

Lerner: My pleasure.