Probiotics, or direct fed microbials (DFMs) as they are also called, is an umbrella term that covers many different products currently on the market.
These products include spore forming bacteria, lactic acid bacteria and yeast, which are often applied to the feed to stabilise the gut of the animal or to increase the availability of nutrients which will result in an improved performance.
However, their mode of action differs, just as one Bacillus subtilis strain can be better at excreting enzymes compared to another Bacillus subtilis strain. In short - strains matter.
The reproductive cycle
Thinking about probiotics today, most people in the swine industry would consider weaned piglets as the target segment, but why not start where it all begins, namely with the gestating sow? Far more attention is usually allocated to the sow around farrowing and weaning, rather than during gestation. For many, the sow's gestation feed is not considered to be as important as in other areas of the animal's reproductive cycle. In addition, probiotics are not often applied.
A gestating sow is often fed according to her body condition, aiming for a constant optimum where she's not too lean or too fat. An optimum body condition will maximise her reproductive performance such as farrowing rate, liveborn piglets and longevity.
In trying to improve litter quality and quantity or even to alleviate the negative impacts of health deficiencies, overfeeding can occur during gestation. While overfeeding creates additional feed expanse, it may also result in severe health issues for sows, with problems like prolonged farrowing which can increase the number of stillborn piglets.
Conversely, when gestation feed is reduced to minimise costs, doing so can have a negative impact on the sow in terms of welfare considerations, as well as causing shoulder lesions and poor farrowing performance. These problems can negatively affect future reproduction cycles.
The lactating sow commonly demands more attention in terms of feed intake. The goal is to get her to eat quickly after farrowing to secure milk quality and quantity. It is also to prevent weight loss during this period. Losing body condition during lactation can adversely affect several areas of reproductive performance, including non-reproductive days.
In-feed probiotics are more commonly used in this part of the cycle. This could include spore forming bacteria as they can withstand the high temperatures of the pelleting process, as well as the inclusion of acids and antibiotics in the feed. However, feeding probiotics throughout the entire reproductive cycle should be considered.
BIOPLUS®: A natural bacillus-based probiotic
BIOPLUS®* is a natural probiotic consisting of Bacillus subtili (DSM 5750) and Bacillus licheniformis (DSM 5749) manufactured by Chr. Hansen A/S.
Applying BIOPLUS® to the feed throughout the entire reproductive cycle has been shown to reduce the number of stillborn piglets, increase the feed intake right after farrowing, mitigate weight loss of sows during lactation and, hence, cut down the number of nonproductive days (Fig. 1-3).
Additionally, results have shown that the performance of the farrowing unit improved when BIOPLUS® is fed, as the sucking piglets also benefit from the probiotic supplement (Fig. 4 a-b).
It is commonly known that weaning is a stressful time for piglets. The changes that occur in respect to housing, mixing and a change of feed often lead to anorexia and diarrhoea resulting in reduced growth.
In this segment, feed additives, such as probiotics, are often applied to reduce the negative effects of weaning. This corresponds well with results from studies showing an increase in the performance of the weaned piglets when BIOPLUS® is applied to the feed.
In summary, feeding a Bacillus-based probiotic consisting of Bacillus subtilis (DSM 5750) and Bacillus licheniformis (DSM 5749) throughout the reproductive cycle and post-weaning phase can be beneficial as the reproductive parameters of sows have been shown to improve - which is also the case for the performance parameters of weaned piglets.
*BIOPLUS® is a trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S
- Lena Raff, Chr. Hansen A/S
Visit Chr. Hansen at: www.chr-hansen.com