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Feeding Piglets Without Antibiotics Shows Great Potential

Scientists are examining novel feeding strategies to improve gut development, defense functions, health and performance of piglets to develop effective ways to supplement the diets of newly-weaned piglets without using antibiotics. The team is evaluating the influence of administering nutraceuticals (vitamins, trace minerals) and functional feed ingredients (cranberry, milk by-products, yeast-derived products, probiotics, prebiotics) during lactation and the peri-weaning period to best meet piglets’ needs according to their stage of development.

Results of the studies showed that feeding piglets a diet supplemented with colostrum and a specified cocktail which combines several effective nutritional supplements demonstrated significant potential towards growth performance without antibiotics. The two dietary treatments supplemented with a combination of nutraceuticals and functional feed ingredients (cocktail diet; cocktail diet + bovine colostrum) clearly improved the vitamin status of piglets after weaning. However, the cocktail diet with colostrum had a greater positive impact than the other dietary treatments on bacterial populations in the gut of piglets after weaning and after inflammatory challenge induced by lipopolysaccharides from Escherichia coli or Salmonella infection.

These results suggest that the colostrum diet improved the intestinal health of piglets. Antibiotic, cocktail and colostrum diets had different effects on gene expression in the intestinal tissue and their actions were generally more marked for low weight piglets. It appears, therefore, that low weight piglets could benefit from the colostrum and cocktail diets even more than high weight piglets. More in depth research is still required before specific recommendations can be made.

This research is part of a larger multidisciplinary project that involves Canadian swine researchers with expertise in physiology, immunology, microbiology, and nutrition from Sherbrooke Research and Development Centre, Guelph Research and Development Centre, and universities (Laval, Montreal, Guelph and Alberta), funded through the Canadian Swine Research and Development Cluster. Together they are examining these underlying mechanisms that influence swine health in order to capitalize on potential synergies between different sow and piglet feeding strategies that were evaluated.

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