Sustainable farming starts in the suckling phase
Piglets face multiple stressors simultaneously around weaning. On top of this, newly weaned piglets have an immature immune system. All these stressors have a huge impact on the health and performance of the piglets. To help them cope with these challenges, Earlyfeed developed the Aim For Zero program. With nutritional health solutions, this program combines on-farm management practices and advanced feed formulation.
By targeting the two critical periods in a piglet’s life, the suckling and weaning phases, Babi®star Safe will support the health of piglets by creating an exogenous defense shield. This exogenous defense shield limits overstimulation of the endogenous immune system—when triggered, this reduces animal health—and spares the energy required for growth. In this way, it is possible to support the health of piglets around weaning, while growth performance is maintained.
The immune system as a healer to disease
In the first two days after birth, we aim to enhance colostrum and sow milk intake, to build up passive immunity via the sow. Enlarging intake is possible via several farm management practices, such as split-suckling and through the sow by adding C-vita into the sow feed. Administering creep feed at day three after birth is the next step in the farm management strategy. By providing a creep feed that sticks to the piglet’s nose, the exploring behavior of piglets is stimulated. This approach will mitigate neophobia for solid feed around weaning and also improve the digestive capacity of piglets. The digestive capacity is further developed when providing a fibrous creep feed. It is well-known fiber has a positive effect on, among other things, the stomach retention time and the production of short-chain fatty acids as an energy source for the gut microbiota.
By building up immunity in the suckling phase, we aim to reduce the effect of the immune challenge piglets encounter in the second critical phase of their life: the weaning phase. The stressors around weaning include environmental changes (separation from the sow, climate, mixing of litters, etc.) and dietary changes (no more access to milk, introduction of new diet, water supply, etc.). These stressors can result in a snowball effect. Lower feed intake will limit energy availability, resulting in a loss of gut barrier function and digestive capacity, which leads reduced animal health and an overstimulation of the endogenous immune system, wasting a lot of energy and nutrients.
Reducing the stressors around weaning were taken into account for the development of Babi®star Safe, as these stressors influence the success of sustainable farming. Babi®star Safe is a prestarter that combines the three pillars of the Aim For Zero Program: supporting farm management practices, adapting feed formulation, and providing nutritional health solutions.
Feed formulation and farm management practices go hand in hand
Provided from 1 week before weaning to 2 weeks post-weaning, Babi®star Safe is specially developed to limit the effect of changes in the diet around weaning. Formulated with the right crude protein level and providing essential amino acids, it optimizes protein digestion by containing highly-digestible protein sources for young piglets. By utilizing this adapted amino acid profile, producers are able to lower the crude protein level fed while maintaining animal growth. This is especially crucial for high-risk, health-challenged animals who need a different amino acid profile compared to animals reared in high sanitary circumstances. Other factors that influence protein digestion are stomach acidification, fiber level of the diet, and age of the piglets. Well-balanced protein digestion will avoid bacterial overgrowth and protein fermentation, which prevents toxic effects and inflammation in the gut, leading to no diarrhea and better performance.
Another important element in Babi®star Safe is fiber. As with protein, it is all about formulating to provide the proper amount of fiber to the piglet during this phase. An inadequate level will result in overeating but too much will reduce feed intake. By using a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber, Babi®star Safe is effective at improving gut health (Chen et al., 2019). To mitigate a drop in feed intake around weaning, it is highly recommended to consider additional feeding troughs. Also, using the same type of troughs the piglets are familiar with during the pre-weaning phase helps them start eating sooner. Furthermore, it is known from the literature that there is a linear correlation between water and feed intake. Next to the effect on feed intake, water plays a crucial role in body temperature regulation, nutrient transport, toxin removal. However, before adding additional water troughs, check basics like flow rate and temperature.
The creation of an exogenous defense shield is fundamental
In the third pillar of the Aim For Zero Program, Earlyfeed focuses on implementing nutritional health solutions. Babi®star Safe supports the health of the piglets by creating an exogenous defence shield. This exogenous defence mechanism is based on a 4 in 1 concept of innovative functional feed ingredients:
- Killing incoming pathogens at stomach level
- Capturing pathogens
- Focusing on endotoxins
- Fortifying the gut barrier
On a commercial farm experiencing high infection pressure, it was shown that implementing Babi®star Safe in the first 2 weeks after weaning resulted in equal performance and lower mortality than a weaning diet containing Colistine (6 kg/MT) (see Table 1).
|Weaning age (days)
|Start weight (kg)
|End weight at day 14 (kg)
|Average daily gain (g/day)
To avoid the negative effects of multiple simultaneous stressors around weaning—next to proper farm management practices—it is important to implement a strategy that focuses on feed formulation and nutritional health solutions. The Aim For Zero Program described here is the Earlyfeed’s total strategy in the battle to reduce antibiotics and exclude therapeutic zinc oxide. To win this battle, it is crucial to look beyond the weaning phase and also consider the first critical phase, the suckling phase. That is what we mean by doing it right from the start.
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