Piglet health is big business

Greater focus on animal welfare and health, antibiotics and carbon footprint reduction from authorities and consumers, forces breeders and producers to rethink their businesses.

In order to maintain production performance high and costs low, whilst reducing the use of antibiotics, the piglet’s health needs extra focus.

Feed benefits

  • Great digestion and utilization of the feed

  • Fully developed gut and immune system

  • Low mortality

  • Supports zero zinc and antibiotic free production

Challenges in piglet nutrition

More piglets per litter

As litter size continues to grow, more piglets are feeding on the same amount of sow’s milk. This increases the need for high milk production.

Newborn piglets are more susceptible to pathogenic bacteria as their immune system is not yet fully developed. Through the placenta and the colostrum, antibodies are passed on to the piglets. When the litter size grows, lack of milk yield and less colostrum per piglet can cause problems, leading to an increase in mortality. Read more about optimizing sow milk yield here.

Weaning piglets

Piglets undergo a great deal of stress around weaning. The change in environmental factors influence their ability to adjust from milk to liquid or dry feed.

Underdeveloped piglet gut flora

The gastrointestinal tract of pig harbours between 500-1000 bacterial species. All playing important roles shaping health and disease on the pig. Early colonization with the right bacterial species will prepare them for weaning.

Weaning is the most stressful event in the life of pigs. It can disrupt health and performance by increasing diarrhea leading to a disruption in the gut microflora balance.

Sow in farrowing stable with suckling piglets

Weaning piglets without medicinal zinc oxide

High doses of zinc oxide (often referred as medicinal zinc to differentiate from zinc added in the mineral mix) are used to prevent post-weaning diarrhea. Medicinal zinc prevents diarrhea and reduces the number of veterinary interventions with antibiotic. However, medicinal zinc will be banned by the European Union from 2022.

The mode of action of medicinal zinc is yet unclear. However, it is well documented that up to 90 % of the medicinal zinc given to the piglets is excreted, contaminating the environment. Moreover, recent research in collaboration together with the University of Copenhagen demonstrates that medicinal zinc impairs the development of the immune system, unarming the pigs for the next growth phases. It also shows the efficacy of weaning with functional feeds and without medicinal zinc.

Piglet diarrhea   

Diarrhea can be caused by the bacteria Clostridium, a Gram-positive bacterium passed on through the faeces from sow to piglet. This type of diarrhea is often known as birth diarrhea.

After weaning, when the piglets are no longer directly supported by antibodies from the sows’ milk, they become much more susceptible to E. coli and other enteric bacteria. Especially as their immune system is not fully developed. E. coli causes watery brown or greyish diarrhea. E. coli is determined through laboratory analysis.

Furthermore, diarrhea has other causes – presence of Salmonella spp., and Lawsonia spp., are two of them – and non-enteric diarrhea is another. A non-enteric form of diarrhea may occur, when introducing feed to the piglet. Compared to the infectious diarrhea, the stool though will be much firmer and the piglet much more vital during the short period of non-enteric diarrhea.

Feeds influence on piglets

Healthy sow – healthy piglet

Ensuring a healthy sow is the first and very important step striving for better piglet production results. A healthy sow has a diverse and balanced gut flora and a fully functional immune system. Both can be influenced through feeding. The sow microbiome is passed on to the piglet via the placenta, at birth, lactation and in contact with the sow.

Modulating the piglet microbiome

The piglet microbiome is also affected by feed. The microbiome consists of thousands of bacterial species – some of them pathogenic and some beneficial. A feed containing prebiotic fibers, probiotics and bioactive metabolites (such as organic acids, flavonoids, vitamins and antioxidants), the balance and diversity of the gut microbiome can be modulated. Supplementing this functional feed daily, it is possible to promote the number of beneficial bacteria while repressing pathogenic bacteria.

Suckling drinking milk from the sow
The piglets gut villi grow better and have tighter junctions when using EP100i in the piglet feed

Gut development before and after weaning

A thick gut lining works as an armour and prevents bacteria from entering the blood stream. Alongside, the development of a functional immune system associated to the gut lining it is essential to develop resilient piglets. Feed can support the development of a fully functional immune system during this transition period.Piglets need to develop their gut ability to utilize the feed provided optimally when transitioning from milk to solid feed. Complementary functional feed supports the development of a well-equipped gut with long villi and crypts, packed closely together.

From suckling to piglet

A smooth transition from milk to feed involves creep feeding in the farrowing stable, starting at least 14 days before weaning. This prepares the piglets gut for the transition to other feed than milk, while still receiving antibodies through the milk.

Reducing bacteria pressure

To keep the contamination in the farm at a minimum, pathogenic bacteria, fungi and parasites need to be minimized in the sows’ faeces. By repressing enteric pathogens and other parasites, less contamination through faeces occur. In order to have the maximum effect in the farrowing stalls, the sow should be fed with antibacterial feed as well.

Recommended use for functional feeding:

The best effect is obtained by adding 8-15 % EP100i to the sucklings in the pre-weaning diet as creep feed. This ensures a diverse and balanced gut flora before weaning. The concentration depends on the degree of pathogenic bacteria on the farm. Maintain the dosage until 20 kilos, where it can be reduced to 5-10%. EP100i be used in dry feed, liquid feed or pelletized. Pellitizing will reduce the probiotic content.

EP100i can be used in combination with EP200 to promote weight gain.

HOW EP100i works on a commercial farm