The role of functional feed ingredients (FFI) in a zinc-free weaning environment
In a context of growing challenges for livestock worldwide, caring about sustainability of animal production has become mandatory. By targeting the critical period after weaning in pigs, Agrimprove has developed a global approach to reduce dependency towards antibiotics and Zinc Oxide. Good farm management practices and high quality feed formulations are by far the most important attention points when addressing this challenge. In practical conditions however we cannot always adapt the existing farm practices. Therefor there will always be a need for a well-balanced FFI approach in order to improve the robustness of piglets to face the challenges around weaning. Surprisingly the Agrimprove approach for zinc free weaning doesn’t start in the nursery. Rearing robust piglets starts in the womb even before the piglets are born.
Self defense is natures eldest law
Enforcing the immune status of the piglets around weaning is one of the most important pillars in the strategies for zinc free weaning concepts. At the age of 21-26 days piglets are not mature enough to build up their own immune system and react to upcoming challenges like E.Coli. At that age there is often a gap between passive and active immunity. Therefore, the passive immunity received via maternal colostrum is of utmost importance. This colostrum becomes more and more limited for piglets due to genetically increased number of liveborn piglets. The same amount of colostrum is simply divided over more piglets. By adding the Agrimprove product C-Vita in the gestation and lactation feed of the sow trials have shown a significant increase in colostrum quality with higher concentrations of immunoglobulins (Fig. 1) leading directly to more resilient piglets. First advantages are already reflected in the pre-weaning mortality (Table 1), but the higher immune status will contribute as well to the overall post-weaning robustness. Simply said: When piglets have a higher immune-status they can better defend themselves for the upcoming challenges post-weaning.
If you fail to prepare the weaning, be prepared to fail the weaning
3 to 4 weeks… that is all the time there is to prepare the intestine for the biggest challenge in the life of a modern domesticated pig. Focusing on intestinal health means finding an equilibrium between a balanced microflora, a strong intestinal barrier and high intestinal surface with long villi to optimize feed digestion. Also here some remarkable functional feed ingredients can play their role. By adding Start+ to the creep feeds and weaning diets we offer the immature intestine a powerful prebiotic component which mimics the role of the natural prebiotic components in sow milk. Feeding Start+ will improve the microbiome composition, strengthen the gut barrier and improve the intestinal morphology as can be seen in below graph (Fig. 2).
The nursery: Protect what was built with the Aim For Zero 4 in 1 concept
Overcoming the most critical period can not only be done by focusing on piglets’ endogenous protection mechanisms like immune system and gut maturation. Functional feed ingredients can offer to the piglets some additional supportive activities to smoothen this transition period. The Agrimprove approach will focus on 4 important pillars in 1 concept whilst aiming for zero intestinal problems in the crucial days after weaning.
- Killing incoming pathogens at stomach level with Aromabiotic
A specific combination of Medium Chain Fatty Acids (Aromabiotic®) acts like a gatekeeper of the intestine by killing of incoming pathogens like E.Coli before they can cause damage to the intestinalcells leading to diarrhea. This antimicrobial activity will be triggered by the acidic environment in the piglets stomach.
- Capturing pathogens leading to a reduced adhesion of E.Coli in the intestine with Vitafibra
On top of Aromabiotic® a well defined mixture of specific fiber fractions called Vitafibra will further protect the intestinal tract. The fiber fraction is chosen for its’ ability to coagulate E.Coli leading to a reduced adhesion to the small intestine, and less disruption of the microbiota. In the end this reduced invasion by pathogens supports the piglet in a smooth weaning transition.
- Focus on endotoxins
In the development of the Agrimprove zinc-free weaning concept a lot of attention has been given to endotoxins. When killing Gram negative bacteria like E.Coli, a toxic substance is set free. This substance is known as endotoxins or Lipopolysaccharides (LPS). They will bind to specific receptors in the intestine (TLR-receptors) and cause local inflammation. The toxin binder solution Vitafix Protect has the unique capability to bind to LPS and simply wash them out of the piglets intestine without triggering the inflammation cascade. As add-on the TLR-receptors will be disabled by some of the fibers inside Vitafibra. These synergistic effects of binding the toxins (Vitafix Protect) and protecting the gut (Vitafibra) are scientifically proven and unique in the animal nutrition market.
- Keep the intestinal barrier intact with Vitanox
Weaning a piglet automatically leads to a nutritional shift from a milk-based diet to a cereal-based diet. This shift requires a tremendous and fast adaptation of the intestine. By feeding creep feed like Babito® before weaning the intestine is being trained to cope with this the sudden change. Nevertheless this dietary shift leads to an increased amount of oxidative stress on the gut. The metabolites produced by this oxidative stress, also known as free radicals, will attack the intestinal barrier and this way cause leakage of the intestine which will be seen in the stable as diarrhea. By scavenging these free radicals the polyphenol mixture inside Vitanox will safeguard the intestinal barrier and create a healthier intestine.
All the above clearly shows that next to good managerial and nutritional practices there is an important role for functional feed ingredients in a zinc-free environment. The above mentioned concept is the Agrimprove total approach. Depending on the local situation and the existing practices the focus of this approach can be adapted. It can be considered as a tool box with every different FFI being a tool that can be used or not depending on the specific situation. This however will need an intense discussion between Agrimprove specialists, nutritionists, veterinarians and farm managers in order to reach optimal results. When combining the insights of all specialists together it will be possible to reach the mutual goal of reducing the use of antibiotics in farm animals. That is what we mean by farming ideas!