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Strategy for healthy piglets without antibiotics

April 15, 2019

A feeding strategy for piglets that does not include antibiotics will reduce veterinary costs and facilitate access to the European market for Canadian hog producers.

Through the research cluster led by Swine Innovation Porc, the federal government and the Canadian hog sector have invested in discovering ways to reduce antibiotic use in piglet production.

A multidisciplinary research program involving scientists at AAFC's research centres in Sherbrooke and Guelph and at universities in three provinces has resulted in the development of feeding strategies that can reduce the amount of antibiotics administered to piglets during and after weaning by improving their intestinal health.

When piglets are weaned, the transition to a new diet disrupts the intestinal microflora (microbiota) and the digestive functions of the intestine. The risk of intestinal infections is also increased. To naturally strengthen piglets' immunity and natural defences, the scientists developed an alternative diet in which nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids) and functional ingredients (plant extracts, probiotics, prebiotics, bovine colostrum) are added to the piglets' daily ration.

Combining bovine colostrum with an enriched feed containing ingredients that have antimicrobial and prebiotic properties, such as mannans (yeast extract), carvacrol (essential oil of thyme or oregano) and polyphenol-rich cranberry extract, results in varying degrees of improvement to the composition of the microbiota and the digestive and immune functions of the intestine in piglets.

For Canadian hog producers, this alternative to antibiotics for ensuring the health of piglets will reduce veterinary costs and allow producers to be more competitive in the European market, which has banned antibiotics in swine feed.

Further research is currently underway. To learn more about the completed research project, check out this article: Feeding Piglets Without Antibiotics Shows Great Potential.

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