In order to get a piglet through weaning without much trouble, dependence on antibiotics or zinc oxide is neither allowed nor is it necessary. In nature, many compounds exist that can be potent stimuli to a pig’s gut – and thus can help a piglet on her way. When mixing the right ones together, long-lasting effects can be created.
Weaning is a stressful event in a piglet’s life and is often accompanied by gastrointestinal disorders. The separation from the sow (loss of contact, milk and the mother’s bacterial environment), the changed environment, the transport to another room or building, the mixing of litters and the transition from milk to creep feed are all stress factors that will negatively impact the health of the piglet.
Piglets face several great challenges related to an immature digestive system and an immature immune system. Numerous strategies have been tested to control post-weaning disorders, including the use of phytogenic feed products.
The bioactive components of phytogenic products are plant-derived, and chemically can be grouped into either terpenoids or polyphenols. Some of these have proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and/or antibacterial effects and may even have effect on the spontaneous activity of the smooth muscles of the small intestines. All these effects may individually have a positive impact on how well a piglet gets through the weaning period.
More than 8,000 types of polyphenols and terpenoids have been identified, and there is clear evidence that bioactivity varies greatly among compounds. Herbs, spices, fruits and other plant species are known to be rich sources of compounds with high bioactivity, each plant species having a unique profile of terpenoids and polyphenols. It is evident that a careful selection is crucial to obtain a phytogenic product with a broad and long-lasting effect.
The phytogenic product InflaMove from Danish animal nutrition company R2 Agro contains selected parts from rosemary, grape, fenugreek seeds, olive leaves, quillaja bark and thymol extract. The ingredients are selected for their rich sources of highly potent terpenoids and polyphenols, ensuring a broad-spectrum gastrointestinal tract effect with emphasis on antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity, as well as a relaxation of the spontaneous activity of the smooth muscles of the small intestines.
Part of the terpenoids and polyphenols of those ingredients are bioaccessible for the enterocyte surface of the small intestine, due to their lack of or low degree of polymerisation. The bioactivity may therefore be partly systemically or locally mediated within the enterocytes. Stimulating the production of mucin in the gut as well as inducing relaxation of the spontaneous activity of the smooth muscles in the small intestines will prevent colonisation of pathogens on the mucosa and excessive loss of fluid and nutrients.
The phytogenic product was tested at a commercial German pig farm with a high incidence rate of Escherichia coli in post-weaning piglets (about 15%). The trial was carried out by Professor Klaus Männer, attached to the Free University of Berlin, Germany.
The aim of the trial was to test the effect of the phytogenic supplement for its ability to reduce post-weaning diarrhoea (PWD) and improve production performance in piglets from weaning at day 25 to day 66 of age. The researcher applied 3 treatments, being:
A total of 150 piglets were randomly allocated into the 3 treatment groups. Results of the trial (Table 1) revealed that the incidences of PWD requiring antibiotic treatment were much lower for piglets fed the phytogenics-supplemented diet. That corresponds well with the monitored faecal scores, as the phytogenic-supplemented piglets (T2 and T3) had more firm faeces compared to the control group (T1).
Daily weight gain increased significantly, by more than 4.6%, and the feed conversion rate improved by 5.7% during the weaning period for the piglets fed phytogenics (T2 and T3) as compared to the control group (T1).
There is no escape from having depressed performance shortly after weaning. Phytogenic products such as InflaMove are effective tools to control this very sensitive period and help the piglets through with better live body weight, lower feed conversion ratio and lower incidences of post-weaning disorders.