The role of functional feed ingredients (FFI) in a zinc free weaning environment
In a context of growing challenges for livestock worldwide, caring about sustainability of animal
production has become mandatory. By targeting the critical period after weaning in pigs, Agrimprove
has developed a global approach to reduce dependency towards antibiotics and Zinc Oxide.
Good farm management practices and high quality feed formulations are by far the most important
points when addressing this challenge. However, in practical conditions, we cannot always adapt the
existing farm practices. Therefore there will always be a need for a well-balanced FFI approach in order
to improve the robustness of piglets to face the challenges around weaning. Surprisingly, the Agrimprove
approach for zinc free weaning doesn’t start in the nursery. Rearing robust piglets starts in the
womb even before the piglets are born.
Self defence is natures eldest law
Around weaning, enforcing the immune status of the piglets is one of the most important pillars in the
strategies for zinc free weaning concepts. At the age of 21-26 days, piglets are not mature enough to
build up their immune system and react to upcoming challenges like E.Coli. At that age, there is often
a gap between passive and active immunity. Therefore, the passive immunity received via maternal
colostrum is of utmost importance. This colostrum becomes more and more limited for piglets due to
the genetically increased number of liveborn piglets. The same amount of colostrum is simply divided
over more piglets. By adding the Agrimprove product C-Vita in the gestation and lactation feed of the
sow, trials have shown a significant increase in colostrum quality with higher concentrations of immunoglobulins
(Fig. 1) leading directly to more resilient piglets. These advantages are already reflected
in the pre-weaning mortality (Table 1), but the higher immune status will also contribute to the overall
post-weaning robustness. Simply said: When piglets have a higher immunestatus they can better defend
themselves for the upcoming challenges post-weaning.
|Without C-Vita||With C-Vita|
If you fail to prepare for the weaning, be prepared to fail the weaning
3 to 4 weeks… that is all the time there is to prepare the intestine for the biggest challenge in the life of a
modern domesticated pig. Focusing on intestinal health means finding an equilibrium between a balanced
microflora, a strong intestinal barrier, and a high intestinal surface with long villi to optimize feed digestion.
This is where remarkable functional feed ingredients can play their role. By adding START+ to the creep
feeds and weaning diets, we offer the immature intestine a powerful prebiotic component. This mimics the
role of the natural prebiotic components in sow milk. Feeding START+ will improve the microbiome composition,
strengthen the gut barrier and improve the intestinal morphology as can be seen in below graph (Fig. 2).
The nursery: Protect what was built with the Aim For Zero 4 in 1 concept
Overcoming the most critical period can not only be done by focusing on piglets’ endogenous protection
mechanisms, like the immune system and gut maturation but also through functional feed ingredients. These
can offer the piglets additional support to smooth the transition period. The Agrimprove approach focuses
on four important pillars, in one concept, whilst aiming for zero intestinal problems during the crucial days
Killing incoming pathogens at stomach level with Aromabiotic
A specific combination of Medium Chain Fatty Acids (Aromabiotic®) acts as a gatekeeper of the intestine.
By killing incoming pathogens, like E.Coli, before they can cause damage to the intestinal cells; which can
lead to diarrhea. This antimicrobial activity will be triggered by the acidic environment in the piglets’ stomach.
Capturing pathogens leads to reduced adhesion of E.coli in the intestine with Vitafibra®
On top of Aromabiotic®, a well-defined mixture of specific fiber fraction, called Vitafibra, will further protect the
intestinal tract. The fiber fraction is chosen for its’ ability to coagulate E.Coli leading to reduced adhesions
to the small intestine, and less disruption of the microbiota. In the end, this reduced invasion by pathogens
supports the piglet in a smooth weaning transition.
Focus on endotoxins
In the development of the Agrimprove zinc-free weaning concept, a lot of attention has been given to
endotoxins. When killing Gram-negative bacteria like E.Coli, a toxic substance is set free. This substance
is known as endotoxins or Lipopolysaccharides (LPS). They will bind to specific receptors in the intestine
(TLR-receptors) and cause local inflammation. The toxin binder solution Vitafix Protect has the unique
capability to bind to LPS and wash them out of the piglets intestine without triggering the inflammation
cascade. As an add-on, the TLR-receptors will be disabled by some of the fibers inside Vitafibra. These
synergistic effects of binding the toxins (Vitafix Protect) and protecting the gut (Vitafibra) are scientifically
proven and unique in the animal nutrition market.
Keep the intestinal barrier intact with Vitanox
Weaning a piglet automatically leads to a nutritional shift from a milk-based diet to a cereal-based diet.
By feeding creep feed like Babito® before weaning, the intestine can be trained to cope with this sudden
change better. This shift requires the intestine to adapt tremendously fast. Due to this stress, an increased
amount of oxidative stress is imposed on the gut. Resulting in metabolites, known as free radicals, being
produced. These will attack the intestinal barrier and cause leakage of the intestine, seen in the stable as
diarrhea. By scavenging these free radicals, the polyphenol mixture in Vitanox will safeguard the intestinal
barrier and create a healthier intestine.
All the above clearly shows that, next to good managerial and nutritional practices, there is an important
role for functional feed ingredients in a zinc-free environment. The above mentioned concept is the Agrimprove
total approach. Depending on the local situation and the existing practices the focus of this approach
can be adapted. It can be considered as a toolbox with every different FFI being a tool which can be used
or not depending on the specific situation. It is however, advised that discussion between Agrimprove specialists,
nutritionists, veterinarians and farm managers occurs to reach optimal results. When combining
the insights of all specialists together, it will be possible to reach the mutual goal of reducing the use of
antibiotics in farm animals. This is what we mean by farming ideas!
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