Blended Organic Acids Delivered via Water

Blended organic acids improve productive performance in sows and pigs, according to Dr. Jeffery Escobar, senior manager - swine nutrition research for Novus International.
calendar icon 10 December 2013
clock icon 7 minute read

The use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal agriculture continues to decrease worldwide, and swine production is not the exception.

Individual organic acids began being used decades ago to help control certain pathogenic bacteria. Today, blends of organic acids are being introduced to control more pathogenic bacteria in more regions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, to improve gut health, to increase nutrient digestibility and to deliver proper nutrition to pigs.

Water delivery of blends of organic acids is becoming more popular for its convenience and timeliness.

Organic acids acidify water and, likewise, decrease the pH of dry feeds. Acidifying the water does two things. It prevents a biofilm from forming in the water lines, which helps ensure fresh, clean water.

Depending on the organic acid nature and the blend, blended organic acids can contribute to lowering the pH in different areas of the animal’s GI tract. This helps control pathogenic bacteria in more segments of the GI tract, which, in turn, promotes production and performance.

Blended organic acids also can be delivered in dry feed. Upon arrival in the stomach, they offer the same mode of action.

Stomach pH is important. Younger animals have less-developed stomachs and a lower hydrochloric acid production rate. Sows have far more developed stomachs and more readily produce hydrochloric acid. The use of blended organic acids further decreases stomach pH in piglets and, therefore, helps to control those pathogenic bacteria that do not do well in acidic environments.

Organic acids have low molecular weights, which allow them to easily cross a bacterium’s outer membrane. Once inside the bacteria, organic acids dissociate, lower the intracellular pH and interfere with the proper functioning of the bacteria.

With some bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, if the intracellular pH is low enough for a prolonged time, they can die. Beneficial Bacillus bacteria, however, are much more tolerant of organic acids and easily survive.

Pathogen Control

Decreasing the stomach pH also activates the protein-degrading enzyme pepsin. Unless the stomach pH is sufficiently low, pepsin is not activated, and less protein is going to be digested in the stomach. With a lower stomach pH, the animal’s overall rate of protein digestion increases. Increased protein digestion supports greater animal performance.

Organic acids also differ in where along the GI tract they are absorbed. Feeding a blend of organic acids, therefore, tends to be more beneficial than feeding a single organic acid. With a blend of organic acids, the organic acids are absorbed in more regions of the GI tract and, therefore, can be more effective in helping to control more pathogenic bacteria.

Water delivery also helps sick animals more than delivery in dry feed because sick animals reduce their feed consumption, yet they continue to drink water when sick.

The level of water-delivered blended organic acids can be quickly and easily changed to fit the situation. In comparison, feed delivery is slowed by feed manufacturing, inventory, delivery and storage considerations.

At least one organic acid blend includes 2-hydroxy-4-(methylthio) butanoic acid (HMTBa), a methionine precursor. Methionine is an essential amino acid for swine. An insufficient supply of methionine can limit the animal’s ability to build proteins from amino acids and can, in turn, limit immunity, production and performance.

Nursery Trials

Two nursery examples demonstrate the effect of blended organic acids, including HMTBa.

In the first example, the nursery flow was naturally and spontaneously challenged with a diarrheic episode. Three groups of 1,200 pigs each were given blended organic acids for the first 21 days post-weaning.

In comparison to 10 control groups, the pigs receiving blended organic acids in drinking water were 1.7kg heavier at nursery exit (26.1kg versus 24.4kg for control groups) and two days younger than control groups.

Pigs receiving blended organic acids had a three-point advantage in feed efficiency, with a feed:gain ratio of 1.59 compared to 1.62 for the unsupplemented control pigs. This is a 1.9 per cent improvement in feed efficiency.

In the second nursery example, the goal was to enhance gut health. A total of 52,789 pigs receiving blended organic acids, including HMTBa, in the water had similar entry and exit weights and similar feed efficiency to 37,901 control pigs.

Differences in medication costs and the cost per pound of gain, however, were notable. Medication costs for the pigs receiving blended organic acids in the water were approximately one-fourth those of the control group — an average of 17 US cents per pig in the blended organic acid group compared to 74 cents for control pigs. The final cost per kilogram of gain for the pigs receiving blended organic acids was 4.5 per cent less: 63 cents per kg versus 66 cents per kg in the control groups.

Sow Trials

Three lactation examples highlight the impact of blended organic acids on sow performance.

The first example evaluated blended organic acids in the drinking water of sows throughout lactation. When weaning weights were compared to the six-month historical average, the pigs from the sows receiving the organic acid blend in the water were 0.77kg heavier than the historical average weaning weight. The additional revenue generated by heavier pigs at weaning provided a 3:1 return on investment.

The next lactation case evaluated a farrowing room with 48 crates turned once, with blended organic acids delivered in the water, which was then compared to a second turn without the water additive. An in-line water meter was installed to precisely measure water disappearance. Weaned pig weights were compared, and the wean-to-first-service interval was measured.

Water consumption was not different in the sows receiving blended organic acids in the drinking water compared to unsupplemented water. The pigs weaned from sows receiving blended organic acids, however, weighed 5.86kg, on average, when weaned at 19 days of age versus 5.54kg, on average, at 19 days for pigs weaned from sows with no water additive. This is a change in weaned pig weights of nearly six per cent.

The weaning-to-first-service interval for parity 3-6 sows receiving blended organic acids in the water was 4.1 days versus 5.6 days with no water additive.

With younger sows in parities 1-2, 75 per cent of those receiving blended organic acids in the water were bred by seven days post weaning, compared to 45 per cent of those parity 1-2 sows without the water additive. The parity 1-2 sows with the blended organic acids were 4.8 times more likely to breed back by day 7 post-weaning.

The final example provided production data on weaning weights, days from weaning to first service and the percentage of sows bred by seven days post weaning.

After introducing blended organic acids in the water lines, the adjusted weaning weight of pigs increased from 5.454kg in control sows to 6.145kg in sows consuming organic acids (Table). This improvement of 691g, or 13 per cent, in bodyweight could easily translate into heavier weight gains and fewer production days needed to reach market weight.

The herd’s average days from weaning to first service decreased from 8.1 days to 6.0 days after organic acids were introduced in the drinking water of sows. Furthermore, the percentage of sows bred by seven days post-weaning was increased from 73.5 per cent to 89.2 per cent when sows consumed organic acids in the drinking water.

sow reproduction blended organic acid water Novus


Blended organic acids delivered through the water lines or in the dry feed represent a reliable tool to better support enteric health.

Research demonstrates that providing blended organic acids in the water, a practice that is on the increase, helps promote piglet performance and higher weaning weights.

With sows, it results in a decrease in days to first service, along with a corresponding increase in the percentage of sows bred by seven days post-weaning. An overall return on investment of 3:1 is projected with the use of blended organic acids, based on field trial results.

This article was first published in 'Feedstuffs'. in September 2013

December 2013

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