Effects of a diformate-monolaurate agglomerate in the lactation diet of sows on the performance of suckling piglets

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Effects of a diformate-monolaurate agglomerate in the lactation diet of sows on the performance of suckling piglets

Christian Lückstädt and Christoph Hutter; ADDCON GmbH, Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany



It is widely agreed that establishing and maintaining good gut health is an effective strategy against intestinal pathogens and is the cornerstone to competitive animal production. In the past, this strategy was only made possible through the routine use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) in the feed. However, the realization that creating and maintaining a healthy intestinal environment can produce comparable, if not better performance without using AGPs, means that understanding and achieving gut health is essential to productivity and food safety programs alike.

Gut health requires not only the absence of intestinal pathogens, as can be achieved using AGPs, but encompasses questions of effective digestibility and absorption of nutrients, a normal, stable microbiota and a healthy, functional gut mucosa, without inflammation. To this end, it is important to see the gut environment as a living system, influenced by environmental factors, especially those delivered via the feed.

Physiologists have found that maintaining a healthy gut requires up to 25% of the daily protein and 20% of the dietary energy supplied with the feed. This strategy should be carefully planned into the dietary program to not waste resources. Furthermore, the judicious use of feed additives can also support gut health through dietary means.

The application of organic acids and their salts to diets for pigs has been studied extensively for more than 50 years. They have proved especially effective in maintaining growth performance since the ban on antibiotic growth promoters came into effect in Europe. Numerous trials have demonstrated their mode and magnitude of action and established effective doses for piglets, fattening pigs and sows. The use of formic acid and of diformate in particular has been the subject of intense investigation, with the result that we now understand its dose-dependent effect on growth performance and feed conversion in pigs under a range of different environmental conditions and feed formulations. The main mode of action is its antimicrobial effect, which makes it comparable with antibiotic growth promoters; but organic acids also reduce pH in the stomach, which optimizes conditions for pepsin activity; and increases the digestibility of nitrogen, phosphorus and several minerals. This is not only beneficial in sparing nutrients, but it also prevents losses that might otherwise contribute to environmental pollution.

While biosecurity and hygiene in the feed mill and on farm are essential, the acidification of feed ingredients or finished feeds with organic acids also offers considerable benefits to bacterial control. Feed acidification is not only effective within the feed; possibly its biggest benefit occurs within the pig itself.

However, while the antimicrobial impact of organic acids and their salts, including potassium or sodium diformate, is mainly directed against Gram-negative bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli, medium chain fatty acids (C-6 to C-12) have also been shown to have an antibacterial impact against various Gram-positive bacteria. This is especially true for lauric acid (C-12) and its monoglyceride ester, monolaurate. Lauric acid has the greatest antibacterial activity of all medium chain fatty acids. This effect is magnified if monolaurate is used, making it a promising candidate as an additive or as an alternative to antibiotics for treatment of different diseases.

Despite the well documented impacts of both additives, data on the combined impact of these additives on health and performance in sows and suckling piglets are scarce – and currently only available from Europe. One of such studies reported significant beneficial effects on suckling piglets from a semi-commercial research farm in Germany (Table 1).


Table 1: Performance data of piglets from sows fed a lactation diet with or without a sodium diformate – monolaurate agglomerate (Formi® 3G) – modified after Lückstädt (2019)



The current study therefore tested the effect of a diformate-monolaurate agglomerate (traded as Formi®3G, ADDCON, Germany) in the lactation diet of sows on health and performance of suckling piglets under commercial conditions in the United States.Formi 3G was used in multiparous sows (average parity 1.8) at a commercial farm in South Dakota. Overall, 839 sows took part in the study, lasting from November 2019 until April 2020. The trial was run back-to-back in the farm – the results from November 2019 till January 2020 were taken as the negative control, including 414 sows, while data collected between February and April 2020 consisted of 425 sows, which received a commercial lactation diet from one week before farrowing until weaning containing 1.0% of the additive. The lactation diet was fed according to a feeding curve within the last days before farrowing, whereas after farrowing ad libitumfeeding was encouraged. All relevant data for a performance trend analysis (liveborn piglets, losses of liveborn, pre-wean mortality, piglets weaned) according to the standards of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) have been monitored.


Results of the additive usage revealed a strong and significant impact on the performance of the sows (Table 2), as well as the survival rates of the suckling piglets (Table 3).

The number of liveborn piglets per sow and year increased significantly (P=0.008), by almost 9 percent against the control group – while the achieved number of piglets (30.9), was almost 17% higher than the target set by NPPC. The number of weaned piglets in the acidifier group was by 1.7 piglets bigger than the control and was furthermore 12.6% or 3 piglets above the NPPC-target. Additionally, the non-productive days per sow and year were numerically reduced by 3.2 days.


Table 2: Performance data of sows fed a lactation diet with or without a sodium diformate – monolaurate agglomerate (Formi® 3G)



The beneficial impact of the additive was also visible at the survival rates of suckling piglets. Mortality rates, especially between the 2nd day and the 8th day after farrowing, as well as in the piglets above 8 days of age were drastically reduced. Specifically, the mortality in piglets older than 8 days was significantly reduced (P=0.02) by more than 54% compared to the control – and was even 10% better than the target set by the Pork Producers Council, showing again the capability of the sodium diformate-monolaurate additive. Overall, the pre-wean mortality was reduced by 8%, thus leading to higher numbers of weaned piglets, as mentioned above. 

Table 3: Mortality data of suckling piglets from sows fed a lactation diet with or without a sodium diformate – monolaurate agglomerate (Formi® 3G)



Based on the reported data, feeding the acidifier to sows during late gestation and lactation is an efficient tool to improve the profitability of piglet rearing: conditioning the sows; and reducing the impact of pathogenic bacteria on the sow and thus indirectly also to their suckling piglets, as published already previously. This leads naturally to lower mortalities before weaning, as described in the current study.

We conclude therefore that the usage of Formi 3G helps sow farmers to raise piglets in a sustainable and economic way using less antibiotics without sacrificing on performance.



For more of the article, please click here.

Article made possible through the contribution of Christian Lückstädt, Christoph Hutter and ADDCON GmbH, Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany

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