Phileo Gut health program: For an optimal feed transition at weaning
Weaning impact on gut helth
Weaning piglets from the sow is one of the most stressful events in the pig's life and can contribute to intestinal and immune system dysfunctions, compromising pig health and resulting in reduced growth and feed intake, particularly in the first week after weaning. Piglets are usually weaned at a time when the passive immunity is declining, and acquiring active immunity is a slow process and it might not be fully functional until about 8 weeks of age (Bailey et al., 2005). The magnitude and severity of this weaning crisis at the level of the gut mucosa depends on how much the immune system developed during the pre-weaning period. During the first 4 to 5 days post weaning, villus height is approximately 40 to 75% less than pre-weaning, reducing the weaned piglet's ability to absorb nutrients, and therefore also reducing body weight gain (Masri et al., 2015). As shown in Figure 1, weaning shortens the intestinal villi, and compromises the intestine's integrity and barrier function.
Figure 1 : Weaning effect on villi shorten in pre and post-weaning piglet gut
The voluntary feed restriction (anorexia) that occurs at weaning is thought to be the main cause of villous atrophy during this stage. Almost half of piglets (45%) do not eat any feed in the first 24 hours post weaning, and another 5-10% of them remain without feed for about 48 hours (Van Kempen, 2014). Pluske et al. (1997) demonstrated the strong correlation between post-weaning anorexia and villous atrophy, and found that piglets that ate better had significantly longer villi (Figure 2).
Damages to the intestine increase its permeability to macromolecules (known as 'leaky gut'), including lipopolysaccharides (LPS), toxins, and pathogens such as E.coli and Salmonella that cause local and systemic inflammation and severe post-weaning diarrhea (Pie et al., 2004). Leaky gut can also lead to a severe electrolyte imbalance, which is another cause of diarrhea at this stage, resulting in a post-weaning growth lag (Pluske et al., 1997; Boudry et al., 2004; Montagne et al., 2004). In summary, the main factors affecting piglet gut barrier function during weaning are: weaning stress (including age at weaning), feed intake and diet composition (Figure 3: Wijtten et al., 2011).
Figure 3: Major factors affecting mucosal immune response and barrier function in the piglet gut during weaning (adapted from Wijtten et al., 2001).
Managing piglet health in the nursery post weaning
1) Functional protein sources
Proteins have traditionally been viewed simply as sources of amino acids, and building blocks for the structural proteins in the animal body. However, it is increasingly recognized that some proteins exhibit a complex range of biological activities that support various metabolic functions and maintain the body's immune response. These proteins are therefore known as functional proteins. Some proteins also incorporate short chains of amino acids, known as bioactive peptides, which are activated only when they are released from the protein during the process of digestion in the small intestine. Bioactive peptides perform various physiological and immunological functions, including an antimicrobial effect (Lalles et al., 2009). Spray-dried porcine plasma (SDPP) and yeast derived extracts, such as nucleotides, are the most common functional proteins used in piglet diets, aiming at enhancing gut health and increasing palatability of the starter diet, thereby improving voluntary feed intake and weight gain (Ermer et al., 1994; van Dijk et al., 2001).
The functional protein source Nutrisaf® is obtained from a primary culture of a proprietary strain and can be used as Nutrisaf® is proven to enhance gut health and the performance of weaned piglets in the nursery stage. Figure 4 shows that supplementing the nursery diet with Nutrisaf® for 28 days after weaning was as effective as SDPP in corn-Soybean meal based diet, and significantly increased the feed intake during the 2 first weeks after weaning as well as during following period of post weaning (14-28 days).
Figure 4 : Effect of Nutrisaf® 2% on gut health of weaned piglets, 14 days and 14-28 days period post weaning compared to non-supplemented or SDPP-supplemented (4%) piglets (Qiyu Tian et al., 2016 ; unpublished data).
The same study shows that supplementing the nursery diet with Nutrisaf® for 28 days after weaning was as effective as SDPP in term of gut health and significantly increased villus height in duodenum and jejunum (Figure 5).
Figure 5 : Effect of Nutrisaf® 2% on gut health of weaned piglets, 28 days post weaning compared to non-supplemented or SDPP-supplemented (4%) piglets (Qiyu Tian et al., 2016 ; unpublished data).
The growth performances were significantly improved at days 14 and 28 after weaning (Figure 6) and as well in term of feed efficiency (Figure 7).
Figure 6 : Effect of Nutrisaf® 2% on ADG of weaned piglets, 14 days, and 14-28 days period post weaning ; compared to unsupplemented or SDPP- supplemented (4%) piglets (Qiyu Tian et al., 2016 ; unpublished data).
Figure 7 : Effect of Nutrisaf® 2% on FCR of weaned piglets, 28 days post weaning compared to non-supplemented or SDPP-supplemented (4%) piglets (Qiyu Tian et al., 2016 ; unpublished data).
2) Nutrisaf® benefits in reformulation strategy
A study conducted in farm conditions in Belgium (2016) demonstrated that total replacement of SDPP by Nutrisaf® was also possible with similar growth and FCR performances (Figure 8).
Figure 8: Replacement of SDPP with Nutrisaf® improves body weight (A) and FCR (B), when piglets are supplemented for 14 days after weaning (21 days old).
The use of Nutrisaf® premium dry autolyzed yeast as a functional protein source shown promising results in modulating post-weaning mucosal immunity, increasing feed intake, and improving piglet performance. Nutrisaf® helps to prevent negative impacts of weaning as anorexia and subsequent detrimental effects as pathogens sensitivity and lower performances.
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Article made possible through the contribution of Phileo- Lesaffre Animal Care