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Research Released into Role of Nutrition in Fighting Disease

29 November 2012
Manitoba Pork Council

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CANADA - Research being conducted by the University of Guelph has raised new questions about the role nutrition during the nursery phase plays in the ability of pigs to ward of disease challenges, writes Bruce Cochrane.

As part of a Swine Innovation Porc initiative aimed at improving the productivity and longevity of the sow herd, researchers at the University of Guelph tracked five groups of pigs fed different diets during the nursery phase.

In four out of five trials, pigs fed lower cost less complex diets did not perform as well as those fed higher cost starter diets but they performed better during the grower finisher phase and at the end of the day there was no difference in days to market or carcass quality.

Dr Kees de Lange, a professor of swine nutrition with the University of Guelph, says in the fifth trial disease changed the equation.

Dr Kees de Lange - University of Guelph

Like any experiment, there are always some twists and the experiment, as I mentioned earlier, was conducted over a about a one-and-a-half-year period in five different groups of animals. The results were very consistent in four out of those five groups but to our surprise in the last group and when those animals were hit by a quite a severe disease challenge - and in fact, we had quite a bit of mortality, as high as 15 per cent of the pigs that were put on trial - the response to dietary treatment was different.

Those animals that were fed those less complex nursery diets, they did not manage the response to the disease as well as pigs that were fed a high-quality diet.

That really raises the question of how nursery feeding programs influence the pig's ability to deal with disease challenges.

That is something that we certainly have to look into further before we make very broad and general recommendations about just making the feeding programs in the nurseries a little bit simpler and cheaper.

Dr de Lange says there certainly are trade-offs.

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