Feed additives

Background last update:14 Jan 2016

Combining strategies to reduce antibiotic usage

In order to achieve antibiotic usage reduction, it is important to embrace various strategies simultaneously. Which ones are these exactly? And how do they help piglets get through their first weeks?

There are different strategies in reducing the antibiotic use in piglets, from reducing crude protein levels to the use of organic and medium chain fatty acids to stimulate animal health. However, every sustainable strategy should not only take into account the antibiotic use as such, but also the farmer’s profitability. For this reason an ideal strategy to reduce antibiotic use focuses on different topics. The most valuable strategies to reduce the antibiotic use in weaned piglets are:

  1. Assure a high feed intake. A high feed intake after weaning is of utmost importance to maintain intestinal health.
  2. Improve diet digestibility. A well digestible diet leaves no substrate for the outgrowth of pathogens in the intestines.
  3. Improve gut health and general animal health.

Feed intake

As generally known, a high feed intake the first days after weaning is of utmost importance to maintain intestinal health. A low feed intake results in villus shortening and a loss of gut barrier function with a long lasting impact on the health and performances of piglets. The feed intake during the first week after weaning determines for a large part the lifetime growth of the piglet. This is why adapting the piglets to solid feed with a good creep feed is essential to assure a high feed intake.

The improvement of feed intake after weaning depends on a variety of factors like: animal health, creep feeding, weaning age and weight, environment, water supply, form of diet presentation, diet raw materials, and nutrient composition of the diet. A good selection of raw materials and taste enhancers is of utmost importance to achieve a well palatable diet. Not only the diet composition is important to improve feed intake, also the form of diet presentation can play an important role. Field trials have shown that the supplementation of piglets with a porridge next to the solid weaning diet can improve the feed intake the first week after weaning with up to 22%.


The main constituents in a piglet feed are protein sources, lactose sources and cereals. It is important to control and stimulate the cereal and protein digestibility to improve the digestibility of the diet. A well digestible diet is important to ensure a high nutrient supply to the piglets, and to reduce the amount of substrate left for pathogen outgrowth in the large intestine.

The digestibility of the feed can be improved in multiple ways, but the control of the acid binding capacity is essential to assure the digestibility of protein as the capacity to secrete acid in the stomach of weaned piglets is very low. It is only at the age of seven to ten weeks that the acid secretion capacity in the stomach of piglets is fully developed. A careful selection of raw materials is in this essential to minimise the acid binding 
capacity of the feed (Figure 1).

Health promotion

In the farrowing house piglets are well protected by antibodies in the milk. Around weaning this protection disappears. The combination of this immunity gap with the large number of stressors around weaning, the low feed intake, and the immature intestinal tract makes piglets very susceptible to disease. There are different options to stimulate the health of piglets, like organic and medium chain fatty acids. However, it’s not only important to look at additives with an antimicrobial effect, also supporting the immune system and gut barrier function is essential in piglets. Especially the impact of stressors on the gut barrier function of the piglet shouldn’t be underestimated.
The oxidative stress in intestinal cells results in a reduced gut barrier function. This leads to an increased passage of pathogens, antigens and toxins over the gut barrier, and an increased susceptibility to disease. Compared to villus length, which returns to preweaning values 14 days after weaning, the gut barrier function takes much longer to recover with long lasting effects on piglet health and performance, see Figure 2. The lower the electrical resistance, and the higher the passage of macromolecules over the intestinal epithelium, the worse the gut barrier functions.

Strategies reflected

All these strategies are reflected in Nuscience’s Porcito range, with prestarters and starter concentrates for piglets. The focus on these three strategies switches as the piglet grows: in the farrowing house feed intake and digestibility are important, health stimulation becomes more important after weaning as piglets lose the immunity derived from sow milk.

Feed intake

Babito, the Nuscience creep feed, is known for leading to high feed intake. In addition, in multiple trials the positive effects of feeding Porcito prestarters before and for some days after weaning (to smoothen the weaning transition) on post-weaning performances have been shown, Figure 3.

Figure 3- Impact of a different prestarter (fed from day 10 of age till 3 days after weaning) on piglet performances in piglets fed with the same weaning and starter diet. zoom


A careful selection of raw materials with a high digestibility and low acid binding capacity is combined with the use of the Nuscience enzyme concept Vitazym. This results in very well digestible feeds, improving health and performances.

Health promotion

The Nuscience health concept protects the piglets, ensuring a high health status and high performances around weaning. The concept focuses on gut health protection as well as on general health status, by a combination of antimicrobial, gut-barrier enforcing and immunity improving products. This results in a broad protection of the piglets and less susceptibility to infections like E. coli and S. suis. This way, not only the amount of intestinal disorders, but also the vulnerability for Streptococcus infections and even pulmonary disorders can be reduced. A 2014 publication by Wageningen University mentioned that Aromabiotic, a patented product with free and active medium chain fatty acids, was the only additive ever tested that could significantly reduce the amount of veterinary treatments needed to reduce respiratory disorders. Concluding, this improved health results consistently in improved performances of piglets after weaning (Figure 4).

Figure 4 - Impact of aromabiotic-MCFA on growth performances of piglets after weaning in different trials. zoom

By improving technical results with the Porcito feed concepts, profit increases and antibiotic usage goes down.

Wouter Naeyaert, product manager pigs, Nuscience

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