Nutrition Research to Pay Producer Dividends

AUSTRALIA - Paying closer attention to nutrition in their pre- and post- weaning pigs promises to pay dividends for pork producers thanks to enhanced intestinal and immune development, survivability and performance.
calendar icon 25 February 2011
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Supported by Australia’s Pork Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), South Australian Megan Edwards was admitted on 21 February to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the University of New England (UNE), NSW, having completed her PhD on early nutrition and the weaning transition.

Dr Megan Edwards, whose Pork CRC supported PhD at the University of New England was on early nutrition and the weaning transition in pigs.

In four experiments under commercial conditions Dr Edwards assessed the influence of various nutritional strategies, including extrusion as an alternative milling process, amino acid supplementation, non-nutritional effects of creep feed and the use of two nutraceutical products, spray-dried porcine plasma and a yeast derived protein meal.

The nutritional strategies which enhanced survivability and immune competence in newly weaned pigs included supplemental amino acids at weaning, offering creep diets containing spray-dried porcine plasma and pre-weaning exposure to creep feed.

Of the strategies examined, including spray-dried porcine plasma, most effectively maintained post-weaning feed intake and growth performance in the acute post-weaning period.

“These benefits were reflected in improved intestinal integrity, pancreatic digestive enzyme activity and colonic health,“ Dr Edwards said.

How creep feed exposure influenced growth performance during the suckling phase depended on a range of inter-dependent factors, including lactation stage and litter size.

The non-nutritive benefits were complimentary to subsequent survivability of weaner pigs, with benefits enhanced in progeny of primiparous sows.

Dr Edwards noted that the importance of creep feed composition became more evident during the acute post-weaning phase.

The results also highlight the nutritive and non-nutritive roles of early nutrition in piglet development.

Beyond providing nutrients for growth, positive early nutritional interventions can promote feed intake, improve regulation of the immune system, rapidly stabilise gastrointestinal mircobiota and limit protein malnutrition.

“Another finding was the benefits of the nutritional strategies tested not only influenced gastric diseases, but also weaner susceptibility to respiratory diseases,“ Dr Edwards said.

Her Pork CRC supported PhD project was co-supervised by Pork CRC CEO, Dr Roger Campbell, Poultry CRC CEO, Professor Mingan Choct and Dr Lene Lind Mikkelsen of UNE.

Dr Campbell said that Dr Edwards’ extension of her studies, while addressing pork producers around Australia during the Pork CRC/APL Roadshows late last year, was a very important key performance indicator for the Pork CRC’s education program.

“Pork CRC actively supports post-graduate students whose studies add value to our industry, in particular at the pork producer level and part of that is ensuring valuable research gets out of the laboratory and, as in this instance, onto farms,“ he said.

Dr Edwards now works for ACE Livestock Consulting as a consultant nutritionist.

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