Maintaining Gut Health for Top Pig Performance

In recent years it has been elucidated that a healthy gut is the most important precondition for transforming nutrients into performance. Feed additives such as acidifiers, probiotics and phytogenics are able to influence gut health. Among these feed additives, butyric acid is of particular importance.
calendar icon 13 May 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

There are several products on the market providing salts of butyric acid in protected and unprotected forms. Due to the unpleasant persistent odour of butyric acid, protection makes the handling of the product easier. Another reason for protection is to obtain stomach by-pass of butyric acid and subsequent release of the active substance in the small intestine. Encapsulation of acids is a known form of protection.

Beneficial protection

There is also an innovative, beneficial protection in the form of glycerides which is a chemical compound of acids and glycerol. The glycerol-acid compound is not influenced by the pH level or digestive enzymes of the stomach; therefore these compounds reach the small intestine where the gradual release of the undissociated acids through the action of lipases takes place. In nature butyric acid glycerides are found in the milk of cows, sows and other species.

It is known that protected butyric acid is an excellent growth promoter as it is an efficient nutrient for the intestinal mucosa increasing the density and length of villi and enlarging the absorptive surface of the intestine. Butyric acid is also known as an antibacterial agent against pathogenic microorganisms, including salmonella, clostridia, Escherichia coli and brachyspira, and as modulator of the intestinal flora supporting useful micro-organisms such as lactobacilli. Butyric acid enhances the reparation of gut wall lesions caused by intestinal diseases and nutritional imbalances.

The effect of butyric acid glycerides was tested on a commercial farm in Italy, which had problems with ileitis, caused by Lawsonia intracellularis. Figs. 1-3 show the difference between a healthy gut and a subclinical or chronic form of ileitis.

The alteration of intestinal mucosa due to Lawsonia intracellularis can lead to impaired feed conversion and weight gain, as well as poor group uniformity.

The trial was carried out on 70 day old fattening pigs for 63 days on a commercial farm in Italy with 850 Danbred sows. Some 1,025 pigs were divided into two groups. Both groups received lincomycin and doxycycline for the first 14 days. One group received 0.2% lincomycin and commercial acidifier at 0.3% inclusion rate, whereas the other group received the dietary supplementation with glycerides of butyric acids at an inclusion rate of 0.2%.

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