Strategic use of feed ingredients and feed additives to stimulate gut health and development in young pigs


de Lange, C.F.M., Pluske, J., Gong, J., Nyachoti, C.M. (2010). Strategic use of feed ingredients and feed additives to stimulate gut health and development in young pigs. Livestock Science, [online] 134(1-3), 124-134.


There is a wide interest in developing management and feeding strategies to stimulate gut development and health in newly-weaned pigs, in order to improve growth performance while minimizing the use of antibiotics and rather expensive feed ingredients, such as milk products. A better understanding of the mechanisms whereby antibiotics influence animal physiology, as well as appropriate use of disease models and in vitro techniques, will lead to the development of alternatives to in-feed antibiotic. Given the considerable advances made in the understanding of intestinal nutrient utilization and metabolism, a complimentary goal in nutrition might be to formulate young pig diets with the specific task of optimizing the growth, function and health of the gut. Important aspects of gut health-promoting pig diets are: reduced content of protein that is fermented in the pigs' gut, minimal buffering capacity, minimal content of anti-nutritional factors, and supply of beneficial compounds such as immunoglobulins. The optimum dietary level and type of fibre will vary with the nature of enteric disease challenges and production objectives. These diet characteristics are influenced by feed ingredient composition and feed processing, including feed fermentation and application of enzymes. A large number of feed additives have been evaluated that are aimed at (1) enhancing the pig's immune response (e.g. immunoglobulin; ω-3 fatty acids, yeast derived ß-glucans), (2) reducing pathogen load in the pig's gut (e.g. organic and inorganic acids, high levels of zinc oxide, essential oils, herbs and spices, some types of prebiotics, bacteriophages, and anti-microbial peptides), (3) stimulate establishment of beneficial gut microbes (probiotics and some types of prebiotics), and (4) stimulate digestive function (e.g. butyric acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, glutamine, threonine, cysteine, and nucleotides). When manipulating gut microbiota the positive effects of gut health-promoting microbes should be weighed against the increased energy and nutrient costs to support these microbes. In some instances feed additives have been proven effective in vitro but not effective in vivo. The latter applies in particular to essential oils that have strong anti-microbial activity but appear not to be effective in controlling bacterial pathogens when fed to pigs. A combination of different approaches may provide the most effective alternative to in-feed antibiotics. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

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