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What can you tell us about the removal of AGPs from diets?

by 5m Editor
22 June 2004, at 12:00am

UK - I know I should say antibiotic growth promoter instead of AGP in order to avoid chastisement by the erudite Digby Scott but I do feel uncomfortable with the thought that we use these products simply to make pigs grow faster.

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They do, of course, but only because the ingredients aid the gut flora to digest food more effectively and reduce the sort of digestive upsets that precipitate ill health.

2006 will see our remaining AGPs withdrawn from use despite the lack of scientific evidence that they play any role in reducing the effectiveness of any antibiotics in use in human medicine. There is no point in dwelling on that fact, any more than there is on the reduction of copper in pigs diets, an EU measure that clearly has relevance for the Low Countries with their worries about heavy metal contamination of soil but of very little importance for our own soils.

Copper inclusion in diets has been a natural ingredient that has had an excellent impact on digestion and few of us recognised the potential impact of reduced levels on pig health that came after the change. We mustn't let the same happen when AGPs leave the scene in 18 months' time so these words are designed to get you thinking about shared information that will minimise the effect on piglet health.

The Stotfold website has a good resumé on AGP removal which I can thoroughly recommend and since we have all battled with PMWS (acronym again, Digby!) many techniques have emerged to reduce stress for pigs in that post weaning period so we are not starting from scratch on this one.

A number of you will have been using diets from which you have excluded AGPs and we, at NPA, would like to hear of the factors that in your opinion have helped make this possible. There may be specific nutritional routes that have achieved a similar impact on gut flora, it may be batching systems have enable all in all out practices with the accompanying hygiene benefits or you may have dropped weaning age back to allow a more mature piglet digestion.

The last point is one that I particularly noted in recent trips to Denmark where weaning age is now averaging over 30 days as they have absorbed lessons from their unilateral ban on AGPs two to three years ago. As so often with livestock, management changes bring pluses and minuses and whilst one notes from Danish information an interesting possible benefit from later weaning on subsequent litter size (the uterus given that bit longer to recover after farrowing?) on the minus side comes space limitation in the farrowing pen and length of occupation for the sow.

So, what can you bring to the knowledge party that will help shape adjustments to AGP removal? We should pick Danish brains for all we are worth but there is much valuable information within our own ranks to be shared.

Source: National Pig Association - Ian Winston Campbell - 22nd June 2004

5m Editor