November 8, 2023


Kansas State University research aims to enhance swine gut health and reduce mortality rates



In response to a growing emphasis on enhancing gut health in newly weaned pigs to reduce mortality rates within the United States swine industry, a student at Kansas State University is investigating the inclusion of low acid-binding ingredients in swine diets, Farm Journal's Pork reported.


Ethan Stas, a graduate research assistant at Kansas State University's Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, is exploring the use of acid-binding ingredients, which are integral to a concept known as acid-binding capacity (ABC-4). ABC-4 assesses the pH level of a pig's stomach before the gastrointestinal tract fully matures.


Stas said that ABC-4 represents the quantity of hydrochloric acid needed to stabilise the pH at 4 for a specific ingredient or diet. For swine, they target a pH of 4 because when the swine's stomach becomes less acidic, issues related to impaired nutrient utilisation and health can arise.


He also said that when piglets transition from a liquid milk-based diet to a dry cereal-based diet after weaning, the amount of lactic acid decreases. At this stage, the swine's gastrointestinal tract is still developing, and its stomach's hydrochloric acid production is limited until the gut matures. This can lead to an elevated stomach pH, associated with reduced protein digestion and increased susceptibility to pathogenic organisms.


In the US, the standard mortality rate for nursery swine is approximately 4%. While not all deaths result from digestive tract problems, the aim is to enhance gut health, thereby reducing mortality rates and the number of pigs requiring post-weaning antibiotic treatment.


Stas said addressing issues like diarrhoea and the health of piglets at the start of their lives is a significant challenge for pork producers. This research concentrates on mitigating this challenge.


Several studies assessing the effects of low ABC-4 diets will be presented at this year's Swine Day. According to Stas, these studies have demonstrated enhancements in growth performance, nutrient utilization, and faecal dry matter.

Stas said post-weaning diarrhoea is a prevalent concern in the swine industry, and our research has revealed that incorporating low ABC-4 diets can enhance faecal consistency and reduce the occurrence of post-weaning diarrhoea.


Producers are continually seeking methods to enhance pig production and health. Stas highlighted that understanding potential approaches to reduce the ABC-4 levels in early nursery diets can help producers enhance the performance and health of their production systems.


-      Farm Journal's Pork

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