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Synergistic blend for gut health and performance

For piglets, good intestinal health is a cooperation between microbiota present inside the gut and the gut barrier

A synergistic blend of various feed additives can contribute to a prudent use of antibiotics and zinc oxide in an economic and sustainable way. A routine application in piglet feed will support the health management practices and reduce feed additive costs.

By Coen Smits, Nutreco R&D and Jaco Eissen, Selko Feed Additives, the Netherlands (

Modern pigs have a great performance potential. Achieving this potential however, can be challenging in high throughput farms where production stressors influence performance. Good gut health contributes to an optimal performance. Optimal intestinal health is a positive co-operation between the microbiota present inside the gut and the gut barrier. For strong and consistent support through nutrition, it is important to take both into account. In a challenging economic situation, with the need to minimise the use of antibiotics and zinc oxide, innovative solutions are required to control intestinal health in a sustainable way. To optimise the microbiota population and boost gut wall integrity, Nutreco R&D, in cooperation with universities and institutes in the Netherlands and France, developed an integrated gut health product: Presan.

A blend of ingredients
The product is a synergistic blend of a phenolic compound, slow release C12, target release butyrate, MCFAs and organic acids. The joint modes of action stabilise the microbiota population and strengthen the gut barrier throughout the small intestine (Figure 1). Research showed that this blend lowers the total microbial counts in the small intestinal tract of piglets, suppresses harmful bacteria and establishes a rapid recovery of the diversity of the microbiota in the gut of post-weaning piglets. All these effects are important signs of a more balanced microbiota. Supporting the gut barrier function is realised by promoting mucus secretion, enforcing gut integrity and reduce risk of oxidative stress and inflammation.

Research also revealed that these parameters were improved. To verify the efficacy in practice, the synergistic blend was validated in professional commercial pig farms in the Netherlands, Spain and Canada and show promising and consistent results.

Minimising use of antibiotics
Within the EU there is a strong focus on reducing the use of antibiotics. In a large Dutch field trial, the blend was tested in an antibiotic free diet against a control feed with antibiotics and a blend of lauric acid and monolaurin. The growth performance of the piglets was very similar for both treatments: 315g/ day for the control and 313g/day for the blend group. Additionally, faecal samples were taken. It was observed that feeding the Presan blend to the piglets had a beneficial effect on the microbiota profile. There were higher levels of Lactobacilli spp and less Clostridiae spp (Figure 2) and less E. coli, improving the balance between commensal and (potential) pathogens. Overall, the results of this trial indicated that the intestinal health was positively influenced with similar growth performance. Furthermore, adding the synergistic blend to the diet reduced feed and medication costs with €0.07 per piglet compared to the control treatment.

Minimising the use of ZnO
Next to antibiotics, in some countries zinc oxide (ZnO), is a commonly used feed additive to control weaning diarrhoea. It has a strong reputation as an antibacterial ingredient. However, there are concerns about the environmental impact of this solution. At a commercial validation farm in Spain the effect of replacing ZnO with Presan on technical and economic performance was tested. The results showed improvements in daily gain, feed intake and feed conversion ratio (Figure 3), while the feed additive costs for the blend were lower (1kg) or equal (2kg). The piglets of 2kg performed economically best of all three treatments. Overall, in this field study ZnO could be effectively replaced.

Synergistic approach
Controlling feed costs is critical for a farmer’s profit. In a commercial setting at a Dutch pig farm the synergistic approach of Presan dosed at a relatively low level in the feed was compared to a control feed containing a combination of single feed additives dosed at a higher level. Due to the lower dosage, total feed additive costs were almost €6 lower per tonne of feed for the treatment group that received the integrated product. The daily gain, feed intake and FCR of both treatment groups was similar (Figure 4). Diarrhoea incidence and the number of medical treatments were lower when using the integrated approach. It was concluded that at an inclusion level of 2kg/ tonne this blend was positive for the health status of piglets and more economic (savings of €0.07/ piglet in feed additive costs) than the control feed additive application included at relatively high dosage.

Apart from performance level, batch uniformity of piglets is another important production characteristic. A trial was conducted at a commercial farm in Canada with 1,050 nursery pigs to measure the performance and uniformity effects of inclusion of 0, 1 or 2kg of the blend per tonne of feed. The control diet was free of antibiotics. Here, the integrated approach also significantly improved performance. Best results were obtained with 2kg/tonne with average daily gain and feed efficiency improvements of respectively 4 and 3%. The variation in body weight was reduced up to 13% (p<0.05) by the 2kg treatment, creating a more homogenous batch of piglets. In combination with the higher daily gain, this means that light weight piglets benefited most from the gut health support. Application of the treatments led to a return on investment (ROI) of 4.5.

Strong results to date
These field studies at commercial pig farms confirm that the integrated approach using a synergistic blend provides promising and consistent performance benefits. It contributes to a prudent use of antibiotics and ZnO in an economic and sustainable way. The concept can be used as a routine application in piglet feed to support microbiota management and gut barrier function. It supports the health management practices and reduced feed additive costs.