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Improving the health status and performance of sows and their litters

by 5m Editor
2 October 2006, at 12:00am

By Dr Jens N. Jørgensen, Chr. Hansen - This article reports on a field study aimed at assessing the efficacy of the probiotic BioPlus® 2B on the health status and performance of sows and their litters.

Chr. Hansen - BioPlus 2B

Summary

A total of 109 gilts/sows on a commercial pig farm was allocated to either a probiotic supplemented or non-supplemented group from two weeks before farrowing to weaning. The probiotic supplementation increased sow feed intake and reduced weight loss during lactation and improved the proportion of sows returning to heat after first service. Piglets suckling supplemented sows had an reduced mortality rate, better diarrhea score, higher creep feed intake and improved growth rate compared to piglets suckling non-supplemented sows.

Introduction

The oncoming ban on antibiotic growth promoters in the European Union challenges scientists to explore safe alternative ways to protect sows and their litter from diseases and to enhance their performance. Probiotics with documented effects provide reliable solutions. The aim of this field study was to assess the efficacy of a probiotic, BioPlus® 2B on the health status and performance of sows and their litters.

Materials and methods

The study was carried out on a commercial farrow-to-finish pig farm with a breeding stock of 500 sows. Two weeks prior to expected farrowing a total of 109 gilts/sows were allocated to two experimental groups:

  1. Control group (55 animals): No treatment
  2. Treatment group (54 animals): as the control plus BioPlus® 2B

The dose was 400 g per tonne of feed, according to the permanent EU approval, administered from the day of allocation up weaning.

Dates of farrowing, weaning, post-weaning oestrus and return to oestrus were recorded as well as gilt/sow body weights at allocation day, farrowing, 14 days post partum and at weaning. Daily sow feed and litter creep feed intake and regular assessment of health status of gilts/sows and their litters were also recorded. Furthermore, blood samples were taken from all sows 15 days post partum and analyzed for total lipid concentration and milk samples were collected from all sows 14 days post partum and analyzed for fat, and protein.

The recording scheme for each litter included piglets born alive, dead and mummified, and weaned piglets as well as litter weight at birth and at weaning. Finally, a diarrhoea score on litter basis was calculated after a daily monitoring of each litter.

Results

The probiotic group showed a significant (P<0.05) 42% reduction in pre-weaning mortality compared to the control group and as a consequence the probiotic group weaned litters were significantly (P<0.05) 8% larger than the control group (Table 1). The reduced pre-weaning mortality was associated with a significantly(P<0.05) improved diarrhoea score in the probiotic group (Figure 1).


Suckling piglets from the probiotic group had a larger appetite and showed a larger creep feed intake than suckling piglets from sows receiving control feed. Supplementing lactating sows with the probiotic increased piglet and litter weight at weaning significantly (P<0.05) by 5% and 13%, respectively (Figure 2).


Figure 1: Relative effect of BioPlus® 2B on diarrhea score and pre-weaning mortality

Figure 2: Relative effect of BioPlus® 2B on litter size at weaning and weight of litter and piglets at weaning

Figure 3: Sow weight loss during lactation in the control and BioPlus® 2B group
An important factor behind the extra productivity in the probiotic group was a prolonged period with significant (P<0.05) higher fat and protein content in the sow milk compared to the control group (Table 2). Two weeks post partum sow milk in the probiotic group contained 3% and 4% more milk fat and protein compared to the control group. Increased milk fat concentration is associated with an increased total blood serum concentration of fat. In this trial by an significant increase of 4% (P<0.05).

The additional nutrient demand for milk production in the probiotic group was not associated with the expected increased sow body weight loss. On the contrary sows in the probiotic group showed a significant 21% lower body weight loss than sows in the control group (Figure 3).

This was the consequence of a higher feed intake together with an improved health status, reflected by a reduction in MMA frequency (control 13% vs. BioPlus® 2B 6%) of the sows in the probiotic group compared to the control group. The improved energy balance of the sows in the probiotic group lead to a significant reduction in the proportion of sows returning to heat compared with the control group.

Conclusions

The lactating sows supplemented with the probiotic product BioPlus® 2B improved their nutritional status by increasing their feed intake, but mostly, in this trial, through an increased nutrient utilization. The improved nutritional status lead to a reduced sow weight loss during lactation. The improved sow condition at weaning had a positive impact on reproduction through higher gestation rate.

The suckling piglets from the BioPlus® 2B supplemented sows had an improved nutrient supply through a higher fat and protein content in the sow milk and larger creep feed intake. These piglets also showed an improved growth and diarrhoea score. These results support that the physiological basis for the observed improvements in health and performance of sows and suckling piglets is a better functioning gastrointestinal tract.


The above paper has been presented at: 8. Tagung Scweine- und Geflügelernährung, Wittenberg, Germany

September 2006