In the world of liquid pig feed, developments are ongoing. New products focus on gut and immune health, addressing the reduced global use of prophylactic antibiotics.
It is well known that liquid feeding provides some important benefits over dry feed in pig production, chief among them the capacity for producers to make quick diet adjustments and to more easily mix in new supplements at appropriate rates.
Practice of liquid feeding limited in North America
There are indeed many new supplements on the market these days that can be put into either liquid or dry feeds but, while the practice of liquid feeding is extremely widespread in Western Europe, it is currently limited in North America, according to Jan Bebber, director of global marketing and supply chain at Ohly.
“However,” he adds, “the high prices of dry feed, as well as the improved performance and health and well-being of the animals with liquid feed, have driven the increased use of liquid feed in North America.”
Reducing or completely replacing antibiotic growth promoters
Globally, the market for liquid feed supplements is expected “to grow at a healthy rate of about 5% [compound annual growth rate] CAGR in the coming years,” reports Bebber, “with Asia Pacific expected to become the biggest market.” He also notes that as more countries push forward with reducing or completely replacing antibiotic growth promoters, the use of supplements that replace antibiotics in liquid feed “will grow considerably in the next few years”.
Liquid forms of additives are preferred over powders
Dr Lan Zheng, swine technical sales manager with Biomin America, agrees that feed additives such as acids, probiotics and phytogenics in both dry and liquid forms have gained more attention after producers started seeking alternatives to antibiotics. She notes, however, that, depending on the type of production system, liquid forms of additives are preferred over powders for their ability to reduce gastric pH and enteric pathogens, as well as for their cost-effectiveness.
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Feed additives such as acids, probiotics and phytogenics in both dry and liquid forms have gained more attention after producers started seeking alternatives to antibiotics. - Photo: Biomin
Major change of focus
Looking back, there has been a major change in focus in supplements for liquid pig feeds over the last few years. “Supplements for liquid feeds were developed years ago in the Canadian and European markets, mainly to boost digestibility,” notes Dr Lee-Anne Huber, professor of swine nutrition at the University of Guelph in Guelph, ON, Canada.
“More recently, with in-feed growth-promoting and prophylactic antibiotic use on the decline or banned completely, supplements are now more focused on gut health. They include probiotics, enzymes and other feed additives that help in gut development or in generating favourable metabolites such as lactic acid. Acids improve digestibility and also make the stomach environment less favourable for the growth of bad bacteria.”
For his part, Dexter Abrigo, Southeast Asia Pacific marketing manager for Novus International, believes that the use of organic acid in water may be the most common solution explored by the swine industry as antibiotic use decreases, and these substances have been well documented as having antibacterial and even antiviral properties.
He points to a recent study in which various feed supplements, including those that contain fatty acids, were tested for their ability to mitigate viruses. The study, conducted at South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD, USA, found that titers for all four viruses tested (Senecavirus A, porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv), porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSv) and bovine herpesvirus type 1) were reduced by the presence of additives based on a blend of medium chain fatty acids. “Most” of the four viruses were mitigated by a Novus product containing a blend of organic acids and an analogue of the amino acid methionine (analogues HMTBa and HMTBa-Ca are authorised feed additives in the EU).
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Two different types of black soldier fly larvae meal. The right one (darker in colour) is defatted and the left one (lighter) is full fat. - Photo: Michelina Crosbie
However, the researchers noted that “further studies are warranted to assess the mechanism of action of those products and to assess their efficacy following natural ingestion of contaminated and mitigated feed.”
Methionine is available in several forms for livestock feed: DL-Methionine (DL-Met, considered the standard methionine source), liquid methionine hydroxy analogue-free acid, calcium salt of hydroxy analogue of methionine, and L-Methionine (L-Met), which became available on the market about a year ago. Recent research has found that “DL-Met and L-Met are equally bioavailable as methionine sources that can be used to optimise the performance, gut integrity and antioxidant status of pigs”.
New and novel
In terms of other new developments in supplements for liquid feeds, Huber points to the work of her master’s student Michelina Crosbie, who is studying the digestibility of black soldier fly larvae meal, which could be used as a supplement in both liquid and dry feeds.
“There is evidence that it can provide gut health benefits for pigs on early nursery diets,” says Huber, “and therefore partly serve as a replacement for in-feed anti-microbials.”
The meal contains lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that’s been shown, like other acids, to promote gut health. It also contains chitin, from the insect exoskeleton, which can also help create a healthy gut microbiome.
Huber would like to see nursery pigs receive liquid feed after weaning, but notes that this is costly and not a lot of barns worldwide are set up for it.
Huge advantages for neonatal or suckling pigs
Bebber also believes liquid feed has “huge advantages” for neonatal or suckling pigs that are too weak to eat or breastfeed, or for sick animals that stop eating solid foods but keep drinking. He notes that, typically, these pigs benefit the most from antibiotic-replacement ingredients such as yeast and yeast derivatives, “as these supplements help to improve the health, well-being and performance of animals. Yeast Mannan Oligosaccharides (MOS) and beta-glucans are most beneficial for animals that are exposed to stressful conditions or in a poor state of health. They are also used prophylactically in healthy populations.”
Bebber adds that since the ban on antibiotic growth-promoters in Europe, there has been a significant increase in the use of these derivatives in pig feed.
Looking ahead, Bebber and his colleagues “furthermore believe that the importance of scientific understanding of the composition, molecular structure and mode of action of such supplements will increase, because [this understanding] allows much more targeted and efficient use”.