Nursery feed steps up with balanced dietary fiber

Pharmaceutical use of zinc oxide in piglet nursery diets is on the way out in the European Union. Strategic use of dietary fiber is a strong alternative in protein-dense feed.
calendar icon 10 September 2021
clock icon 4 minute read

Pig producers can already do much to reduce protein malabsorption and the risk of diarrhea by improving protein digestibility and absorption. An optimal combination of soluble and insoluble fibers is the next step in optimizing protein-dense diets. By supporting the development of the piglet gut and reducing diarrhea in the vulnerable post-weaning phase, strategic fiber use has strong potential as an alternative to pharmaceutical zinc oxide. That makes it the natural choice for healthier piglets and higher, more uniform growth.

Choosing the best method for fiber analysis

The right fiber analysis is essential when using fiber as a strategic tool to phase out zinc oxide in piglet feed. Although the proximate analysis method is the most easily accessible and widely used, it has a number of limitations. An enzymatic-chemical analysis represents a more comprehensive and accurate methodology.

The explanation lies with the two main fractions in plant dry matter: the cell wall and cell content. While the cell content consists of non-structural carbohydrates such as starch and simple sugars, the main building blocks of cell walls are mono sugars, collectively referred to as non-starch polysaccharides (NSP).

As the dry matter of plant cell walls contains up to 950g of various polysaccharides per kilo, the analysis method must be able to measure a wide range of polysaccharides. This is where proximate analysis falls short as it simply fractionates carbohydrates into crude fiber, sugar and starch – underestimating the true fiber concentration of the feed.

The enzymatic-chemical analysis separates carbohydrates according to glycoside linkages, degree of polymerization, NSP solubility and lignin. Consequently, it both reveals the true fiber content and categorizes carbohydrates according to their fermentability in each section of the gut. This makes the method a more useful tool when evaluating the strategic value of fibers in gut modulation.

Figure 1.  Butyric acid production increased by 23% in 15kg piglets when fermenting soluble fibers (left) while protein fermentation was reduced by 19% (right). Control = no fiber, HP FiberBoost = soluble non-starch polysaccharides (NSP), Lignocellulose = insoluble NSP, SCFA = short chain fatty acids, BCFA = branched chain fatty acids
Figure 1. Butyric acid production increased by 23% in 15kg piglets when fermenting soluble fibers (left) while protein fermentation was reduced by 19% (right). Control = no fiber, HP FiberBoost = soluble non-starch polysaccharides (NSP), Lignocellulose = insoluble NSP, SCFA = short chain fatty acids, BCFA = branched chain fatty acids
Figure 2. Quantification of the total carbohydrate content (64%) of a commercial nursery diet by two analysis methods. With the proximate analysis (A), 16% of the fiber fraction remains unknown. The enzymatic-chemical analysis (B) identifies all carbohydrate fractions.
Figure 2. Quantification of the total carbohydrate content (64%) of a commercial nursery diet by two analysis methods. With the proximate analysis (A), 16% of the fiber fraction remains unknown. The enzymatic-chemical analysis (B) identifies all carbohydrate fractions.
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