Would weaner pigs benefit if they are provided with polysaccharides from a Japanese seaweed known as “kombu” or Laminaria japonica? A team of Chinese researchers supported by a US-based researcher delved into this.
The team published about their findings in the Journal of Veterinary Sciences in a research article published in December 2023. They investigated the effects of adding L. japonica polysaccharides to the diet on growth performance, faecal digestive enzyme activity, serum biochemical indices, and free amino acids in weaned piglets.
The team looked into these kombu polysaccharides as they are comprised of a combination of different sugar residues. Those compounds exhibit a variety of beneficial biological functions.
The research team selected 120 healthy crossbred barrows (Berkshire × Licha Black) for this study, which lasted 21 days. They assigned all piglets randomly assigned to 4 treatments according to the initial body weight, The team supplemented each concentration of L. japonica polysaccharides (0, 100, 200, or 400 mg/kg) to the basal diet.
The research team computed average daily gain (ADG), average daily feed intake (ADFI) and gain-to-feed (G:F) ratio. At the end of the experiment, a single piglet from each pen, with a body weight closely aligned with the pen’s average, was selected, and the team obtained blood as well as faecal samples.
Polysaccharide supplementation at dosages of 200 and 400 mg/kg showed a significant enhancement in the ADG and ADFI of weaners during days 0-21. Better growth performance was due to the improved digestive enzyme activities in the faeces and increased appetite and energy absorption of piglets. In addition, ADG and ADFI in piglets increased as the concentration of polysaccharides in the diet increased.
Polysaccharide supplementation at dosages of 200 and 400 mg/kg significantly increased the faecal amylase activity of piglets, due to the polysaccharide’s prebiotic activity, which promotes starch digestion and absorption. In addition, the polysaccharides linearly increased faecal amylase and lipase activities.
The supplementation the polysaccharides at a dosage of 400 mg/kg increased serum histidine and asparagine content in piglets due to increased protein digestion and absorption. In addition, polysaccharide supplementation at a dosage of 200 mg/kg reduced serum methionine and phenylalanine contents compared to piglets supplied the polysaccharides at a dosage of 100 mg/kg.
At all levels (100, 200 and 400 mg/kg), polysaccharide supplementation did not impact the serum levels of e.g. glucose, total cholesterol and ammonia of weaned piglets. That is probably due to the short experimental period.
The authors concluded that supplementation of 200 and 400 mg/kg of L. japonica polysaccharides to the feed could increase growth performance and the amylase activity in the faeces of weaned piglets. They expect this to improve the nutrient metabolism ability of weaned piglets.