Phytogenics for Sows: Beyond the Expected Performance

Phytogenics as powerful feed additives have more to offer than performance enhancements, according to Ahmed Aufy of Biomin.
calendar icon 19 June 2012
clock icon 4 minute read

Lactation is a stressful time in a sow’s life, when sufficient amounts of milk have to be produced to meet the needs of newborn piglets. There is no question that sows will lose weight during lactation because of protein and energy deficits. Consequently, sows will have longer wean-to-oestrus period and this effect will extend to the next farrowing, resulting in a pronounced reduction in the number of weaned piglets per litter and also litter weaning weight.

Feed intake is considered a limiting factor of sows’ productivity, and producers therefore always offer unrestricted amounts of fresh feed. In practice, some farms do restrict feed in the first week to avoid some health complications, e.g. constipation, but several studies have shown that even for short periods, feed restriction has a negative impact on the performance of sows as well as newborn piglets.

Sufficient feed intake means sufficient milk production and higher milk availability for the piglets. As the vast majority of postnatal mortality is due to lower milk production and piglets after birth are known to have insufficient stored energy in their bodies, it is critical that this energy should come from immediate milk consumption.

Some antibiotics have been shown to increase feed intake slightly during lactation and hence decrease losses in body weight. Unfortunately, the use of antibiotics could not do any more than that, and their usage is currently limited by consumer demands and preferences for antibiotic-free meat.

Due to their nature, phytogenic feed additives have been shown to exert several positive effects in different animal species. Specifically for swine, phytogenics have been proven to increase feed palatability and hence feed consumption. Moreover, phytogenics are known to optimise gut microflora, leading to higher nutrient uptake (digestibility) and relief from the immune stress due to the high pathogenic load.

Several trials have shown that phytogenics can help sows in lactation periods by reducing body weight loss and ensuring a successful weaning period for piglets. It was clear that supplementing feed with phytogenics can result in enormous improvements in different parameters compared with untreated sows. Feed intake was improved by about 10 per cent. Consequently, sows fed phytogenics had 6.6 per cent more piglets born alive, 3.6 per cent heavier weight at birth, 8.6 per cent more piglets weaned per litter, 9.0 per cent heavier litters at weaning, lower mortality and most interestingly, a 45 per cent reduction in body weight loss during lactation.

The author concludes that phytogenic feed additives serve as a powerful tool in feed that can improve sow performance. This leads to better performance for piglets and enables sows to reach the next oestrus more quickly because of the reduced loss in body weight.

Phytogenics as powerful feed additives have more to offer than performance enhancements. Human food safety is an additional important benefit for phytogenics as there is neither toxicity nor resistance known for such functional compounds. A win-win strategy between producers and customers can thus be achieved.

June 2012
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