What is Biofilm and what are the solutions?

26 August 2020

Dr Sophie Prentice discusses the causes of biofilm and how to combat it.

What is biofilm?

Biofilm is an accumulation of organic and inorganic microorganisms which is held together by extracellular polymer substances that are secreted by the microorganisms themselves. It grows on the water’s surface and may form a “slime” that sticks to pipes and tanks causing clogged drinkers, damaged equipment and reduced water flow. Biofilm can also threaten livestock health, allowing microorganisms such as bacteria, yeasts and moulds to contaminate drinking water. Harmful bacteria can cause disease, diarrhoea and diminished growth. Yeasts and moulds can disrupt digestion and sometimes reduce water intake by affecting its taste, odour, colour or texture. Biofilm can also increase the TVC count in water, making it difficult to meet standards set by various accreditation bodies.


Figure 1. biofilm illustration

How can it be prevented?

Clean drinking water begins with flushing. The system should be flushed with clean water between cycles and after any treatment (such as vaccines, antibiotics or vitamins) is delivered via water. As disease risk is highest during early life, it is advisable to flush systems more often during the earliest stages of production. Flushing with clean water loosens substances that can contribute to biofilm and washes away build-ups that can clog equipment. A high pressure should be applied during the flushing process. As a simple and effective disinfectant between cycles, hydrogen peroxide works very well to kill many bacteria, remove build-up and help prevent biofilm from accumulating.  Hydrogen peroxide should never be used to disinfect when livestock are present. Unlike hydrogen peroxide, chlorine can be used as a maintenance disinfectant during the production cycle.

Acidification with organic acids protects from within and supports digestion, providing a defence against pathogens that can enter livestock via the biofilm. Organic acids help control stomach microbes and reduce pathogenic bacteria in the intestines. Acidifiers reduce the pH of water to less than 4 – a level at which many pathogenic bacteria struggle to survive – helping to prevent accumulation and spread of biofilms. As a low pH is also required for the digestion of most proteins, organic acids can help assure less undigested protein reaches the hindgut, potentially reducing the threat of dysbacteriosis.  Acidification with organic acids to support health and performance from within, combined with flushing, hydrogen peroxide, and chlorination to sanitize and protect against pathogen intake, provides a holistic and effective approach in controlling biofilm on the farm.



Trouw Nutrition has a range of organic acid based water products to support with biofilm reduction and improved production. Selko Aqua provides water acidification and supports digestion, Selko pH offers acidification, digestion support and an improvement in gut integrity, and Selko 4Health provides all of the aforementioned benefits, along with a broader spectrum of antibacterial effectiveness that can be used to target specific health conditions caused by gram positive and gram negative bacteria. 

Dr Sophie Prentice is our  Monogastric Feed Additive Product Manager.