A specific phytogenic feed additive helps to improve animal welfare and health status of post-weaning piglets under farm conditions with increased diarrhea incidence



Phytogenic feed additives (PFA) are increasingly recognized for their potential to beneficially affect growth performance, nutrient digestibility and gut health in different livestock species, including piglets [1]. Therefore, the efficacy of a PFA on growth performance and health status of post-weaning piglets from d 25 to d 66 of age was tested compared to a control diet (NC) in a commercial pig breeding farm having a high incidence rate of post-weaning diarrhea (PWD) associated with pathogenic Escherichia coli.

Materials & Methods

      •  540 post -weaning barrows and gilts (DanBredx Piétrain; weaned at25 ±2 days of age) were allocated to 30 pens (15 replicates with 135 ♀;135 ♂per treatment group)

      •  A starter diet based on corn, soybean meal, barley, wheat and skim milk powder with 20.65% CP and 13.57 MJ/kg ME was fed from d0 to d14

      •  A grower diet based on corn, soybean meal, barley, and wheat with 17.61% CP and 13.30 MJ/kg ME was fed from d15 to d42

      •  Inclusion rate of wheat semolina (NC) or PFA (Fresta® Protect) was 1 kg/t of feed

      •  Daily check for feces scores, health, culls, and mortality

      •  Fecal gene copy numbers of E. colivirulence factors faeand estIIwereestimated by quantitative real-time PCR

      •  Statistical analyses were performed with the software package SPSS (IBM SPSS Version 25).
Table 1:  Diseased piglets, antibiotic treatments and cumulative mortality

Table 2:  Effect of PFA on faecesscores and genes copy numbers of E. coli virulence factors estIIand fae
Figure 1:  Difference in body weight d42 and ADG, ADFI and FCR during the whole trial period from d0 to d42 between PFA and NC in %.

Results and Discussion

Diarrhea incidence rate in NC piglets amounted to 9.26% or 25 piglets. 60% of diseased NC piglets needed treatments with injectable
antibiotics. Based on pathological-morphological and clinical diagnostic findings the mortality in both treatments was mainly due to PWD caused by toxin-producing E. coli. Antibiotic treatments against PWD (-37.5%) and mortality rate (-36.4%) were reduced in the PFA group compared to the NC (Table 1). In addition, feces scores were improved (P<0.001) in the PFA group during d0-14 and d0-42 compared to the NC (Table 2). Although not significantly, qPCR analysis of E. coli virulence factors fae and estII showed a numeric reduction of gene copy numbers in the PFA group compared to the NC (Table 2).

Growth performance was not affected by treatments during the first 14 days of the study. Between d14 and d42, however the PFA group had an increased ADG (P=0.015) and showed a tendency for improved FCR (P=0.86; Table 3), resulting in an increase of ADG by 5.1% (P=0.028) for the whole trial period compared to the NC (Figure 1). In summary, economical benefits by feeding the PFA, even under health challenging conditions, are basing on improved piglet performance due to an
enhancement of animal welfare and general health.

Table 3:  Body weight (kg), average daily gain (ADG; g/d), average daily feed intake (ADFI; g/d) and feed conversion ratio (FCR)

The results of the current study suggest that feeding the tested PFA at the recommended dose level could represent an effective strategy to improve animal welfare and economic benefit by a reduction of copy numbers of fimbriae encoding genes of ETEC as well as by a reduction of diarrhea incidence and its consequences and by an increase in performance, respectively.


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