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Early life nutrition key to unlocking piglets’ potential

A good start in life is essential, as proven by the strong connection between optimal neonatal nutrition and lifelong health and performance. The first 70 days in the life of a piglet, which covers the challenging period around weaning, are key to unlocking its genetic potential.

Reducing the use of antibiotics

Changing regulations are making it more urgent than ever for piglet producers to take a holistic feed-farm-health approach that reduces the reliance on antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals.

For example, in January 2022, new EU regulations came into effect banning pharmaceutical levels of zinc, which were used in nursery pigs to reduce post-weaning diarrhoea and improve performance. This requires an even stronger focus on maintaining herd health by overcoming the immunity gap around weaning, while safeguarding vital nutrients for health and development.

At Trouw Nutrition, we designed our Antibiotic Reduction Program to support producers in reducing reliance on antibiotics without compromising on efficiency and productivity.

Find out more about our Antibiotic Reduction Program here

High-performing piglets

You know how important the right nutrition is to your piglets’ performance – and that feed is the most significant cost you face in raising livestock. To get the most from your investment, and make sure your piglets grow into healthy, high-performing adults, it is important to ensure they adequately digest the nutrients in the feed you provide them. This is particularly important right after weaning, a time of significant change for piglets.

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Managing feed and water for piglets

Piglets, whose bodies are composed of 80% water at birth, require direct access to ample quantities of clean, fresh water as well as quality feed to thrive. Managing livestock carefully from the start benefits both farmers and animals. This will lead to improved production and financial results over the long term.

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Controlling Salmonella in piglets

Salmonella infections in swine are mostly asymptomatic, but can cause diseases, manifesting as Septicemia and/or Enterocolitis.  Especially at and after weaning, piglets are very susceptible to Salmonella contamination. Salmonella ultimately affects not only animal health but also has human health ramifications – so it is important to start to control it as early as possible in the production chain. A customised, integrated approach can protect and empower the animals against Salmonella colonisation and invasion and may reduce its horizontal transmission.

Optimising minerals in a piglet’s diet

Trace minerals, such as zinc, copper and manganese, are essential to piglets’ development and metabolism. They support multiple essential functions, including growth performance, immune response and health. Provided in wrong form and amount could lead to a negative impact on a piglet’s productivity, reduced feed intake and body weight gain and lead to lower weaning weights, disease response and potentially increased mortality. Therefor we encourage swine producers and nutritionists to work together to provide a cost-effective trace mineral source most capable of consistently meeting the needs of the animal.

By paying close attention to weaning management and using an approach that integrates feed, farm management and health, any negative impacts of weaning on piglet health and performance can be reduced.
Peter Smid – Global Programme Manager Health Feed Additives

Related stories

The role of lactose in weanling pig nutrition: a literature and meta-analysis review

Lactose plays a crucial role in the growth performance of pigs at weaning because it is a palatable and easily digestible energy source that eases the transition from milk to solid feed. However, the digestibility of lactose declines after weaning due to a reduction in endogenous lactase activity in piglets. As a result, some lactose may be fermented in the gastrointestinal tract of pigs. Fermentation of lactose by intestinal microbiota yields lactic acid and volatile fatty acids, which may positively regulate the intestinal environment and microbiome, resulting in improved gastrointestinal health of weanling pigs. We hypothesize that the prebiotic effect of lactose may play a larger role in weanling pig nutrition as the global feed industry strives to reduce antibiotic usage and pharmacological levels of zinc oxide and supra-nutritional levels of copper. Evidence presented in this review indicates that high dietary lactose improves growth performance of piglets, as well as the growth of beneficial bacteria, particularly Lactobacillus, with the positive effects being more pronounced in the first 2 weeks after weaning. However, the risk of post-weaning diarrhea may increase as pigs get older due to reduced lactase activity, high dietary lactose concentrations, and larger feed intakes, all of which may lead to excessive lactose fermentation in the intestine of the pig. Therefore, dietary lactose levels exert different effects on growth performance and gastrointestinal physiological functions in different feeding phases of weanling pigs. However, no formal recommendation of lactose for weanling pigs has been reported. A meta-analysis approach was used to determine that diets fed to swine should include 20%, 15%, and 0 lactose from d 0–7, d 7–14, and d 14–35 post-weaning, respectively. However, sustainable swine production demands that economics must also be taken into account as lactose and lactose containing ingredients are expensive. Therefore, alternatives to lactose, so called “lactose equivalents” have also been studied in an effort to decrease feed cost while maintaining piglet performance with lower dietary lactose inclusions. In summary, the present review investigated dose-response effects of dietary lactose supplementation to exert positive responses and begin to elucidate its mechanisms of action in post-weaning pig diets. The results may help to replace some or all lactose in the diet of weanling pigs, while improving production economics given the high cost of lactose and availability in some swine production markets.
by Zhao J. on 10/01/2021
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Fibre supplementation to pre-weaning piglet diets did not improve the resilience towards a post-weaning enterotoxigenic E. coli challenge

Dietary fibre (DF) is implicated in gastrointestinal health of weaned piglets, either through its physiochemical properties, through modulation of gut microbiota and (or) improved gut integrity. We aimed to study the effect of DF enriched supplemental diets fed to suckling piglets ('creep feed') on health and performance after weaning when challenged with an enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC). Seventy-two piglets originating from 28 litters had been fed four creep diets, that is a low-fibre control (CON); a diet containing 2% long-chain arabinoxylans from wheat (lc-AXOS) or 5% purified cellulose (CELL) or a diet containing the high fermentable and the low-fermentable fibre source (i.e. 2% lc-AXOS and 5% CELL). Upon weaning, piglets were individually housed and all fed the same diet. On days 7, 8 and 9, animals received an oral dose of ETEC (5 ml containing 107 to 108 CFU/ml). Besides growth performance, faecal and skin scores were recorded daily. Gut permeability was assessed by urinary excretion of Co-EDTA prior and post-ETEC challenge. Repeated measures in time were statistically evaluated with generalized linear mixed models. We used a binominal distribution for evaluating the faecal and skin scores. Feed intake and body weight gain did not differ between treatments (p > .05). Piglets on CELL decreased gain:feed ratio in week 2 + 3 week compared to CON (p = .035). Prior to ETEC challenge, gut permeability tended to increase for lc-AXOS (p = .092). Moreover, lc-AXOS as main effect increased intestinal permeability before ETEC challenge (p = .013), whereas the low-fermentable fibre lead to elevated intestinal permeability after ETEC challenge (p = .014). The incidence of diarrhoea was higher for lc-AXOS + CELL compared with lc-AXOS (p = .036), while skin condition was unaffected. In conclusion, neither the high fermentable nor the low-fermentable fibre source improved post-weaning growth or gastrointestinal health of the piglets.
by H. van Hees on 25/11/2020
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Impact of Yeast-Derived β-Glucans on the Porcine Gut Microbiota and Immune System in Early Life

Piglets are susceptible to infections in early life and around weaning due to rapid environmental and dietary changes. A compelling target to improve pig health in early life is diet, as it constitutes a pivotal determinant of gut microbial colonization and maturation of the host’s immune system. In the present study, we investigated how supplementation of yeast-derived β-glucans affects the gut microbiota and immune function pre- and post-weaning, and how these complex systems develop over time. From day two after birth until two weeks after weaning, piglets received yeast-derived β-glucans or a control treatment orally and were subsequently vaccinated against Salmonella Typhimurium. Faeces, digesta, blood, and tissue samples were collected to study gut microbiota composition and immune function. Overall, yeast-derived β-glucans did not affect the vaccination response, and only modest effects on faecal microbiota composition and immune parameters were observed, primarily before weaning. This study demonstrates that the pre-weaning period offers a ‘window of opportunity’ to alter the gut microbiota and immune system through diet. However, the observed changes were modest, and any long-lasting effects of yeast-derived β-glucans remain to be elucidated.
by H. de Vries on 12/10/2020
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