Pigs That Are Lean, Not Mean: Phytogenics - Enhancing growth, naturally

Phytogenics are materials of plant origin such as herbs, spices, essential oils or other plant extracts. They have been used for thousands of years for everyday purposes as well as for their specific properties as natural remedies, writes Christine Hunger.
calendar icon 13 November 2015
clock icon 3 minute read

Phytogenics express a wide range of biological activities including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antifungal. With the ban on antimicrobial growth promoters (AGPs) in the EU and other countries, the search is on for alternatives. Many studies have been conducted to look into replacements for AGPs.

In the case of phytogenics, the anti-inflammatory and gut microbiota modulating effects in particular were researched and the use of these additives as a replacement for AGPs has increased significantly in recent years.

Background of beta-adrenergic agonists

Beta-adrenergic agonists (β-agonists) act as repartitioning agents, promoting lean tissue deposition in pigs. In 1999, a specific β-agonist was approved in the US and was subsequently introduced in other countries. Currently, there is only one β-agonist approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in swine diets.

Benefits of β-agonists in finishing pigs

In finishing-pigs, the dietary use of a certain β-agonist improved growth performance at different feeding durations from six days, whereas carcass composition was improved at longer feeding durations. Carcass weight and dressing percentage also increased as a result.

What one has to bear in mind is that in order to have a considerable effect, the nutrient concentrations in the diet must be increased. Further, the protein composition of the diet has to be adjusted. In particular, the first-limiting amino acid, lysine, has to be available to the animal in sufficient amounts for the β-agonist to have an effect on growth performance and leanness. These adjustments ultimately make the feed more expensive.

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