MCT oil may act as antimicrobial while boosting performance of piglets and chicks

By Jane Byrne contact

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MCT oil added to the diet of chicks may reduce campylobacter colonization in the bird
MCT oil added to the diet of chicks may reduce campylobacter colonization in the bird
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oils can help control salmonella in piglets and may lower the incident of campylobacter in chicks, says a scientist, as US firm, Horn Animal Wellness, releases an infographic to show the functional benefits of the ingredient for various species.

MCT oils are rapidly ingested and metabolized, enabling them to be a superb source of energy for the neonatal animal, said Horn, a distributor of specialty animal ingredients. 

“Overall the tendency is for animals fed MCT oil to have decreased fat accumulation while sparing lean muscle.  

The supplementation of the diets of baby pigs with MCT oil can improve the animals’ energy supply and performance, as well as inhibit bacterial concentrations - mainly in regards to salmonella and coliforms - and thereby improve the intestinal microbial environment and feed utilization efficiency,” ​Melinda Fernyhough Culver, scientific affairs manager, Biosciences, at ABITEC Corporation, told feednavigator. 

Body weight gain in chicks

Meanwhile, in chicks, body fat and fat retention are reduced through the inclusion of MCT oil in their feed whereas food efficiency - especially protein utilization - is increased resulting in an overall body weight gain, said Culver. 

“Additionally, MCT oil added to the diet of chicks may reduce campylobacter colonization in the bird.  

In the calf, there may be similar body composition altering effects – a tendency for decreased adipose deposition. There is additional evidence that MCT oil supplementation has an anticoccidal effect on the rumen,” ​continued the animal nutrition expert. 

MCT oils – how they work

So how does MCT oil work? Made up of triglycerides with fatty acid lengths of eight or ten carbons, Culver said MCT oil is easily digested and quickly absorbed into the cells of the intestine.

The medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) of the oil move readily through the cell and then diffuse into the portal vein: 

The first stop for the portal vein is the liver. There the MCFA are taken up by the hepatocytes - liver cells - and are metabolized by the hepatocyte mitochondria into ketones. These ketones can be used elsewhere in the body – notably the heart, brain, and skeletal muscle – for energy,”​ added the animal scientist. 

Data from scientific research papers have demonstrated the antibacterial effects of medium chain fatty acids.

Writing in Cambridge University’s Animal Health Research Reviews in 2011, German and Canadian researchers report that: "MCFAs affect the composition of the intestinal microbiota and have inhibitory effects on bacterial concentrations in the digesta, mainly on Salmonella and coliforms."

Usage beyond the neonatal stage

Currently, there is not a bulk global market for MCT oils but they are used in boutique farming worldwide, said Culver.

In terms of the gains generated from the use of such a feed ingredient in the diets of livestock at other live stages, the scientist said MCT oil would seem to have some benefit for animals in late pregnancy and in lactation.

She said research has shown that: “Sows supplemented with MCT oil had a lower neonatal mortality rate and better development of baby pigs, especially underweight ones. Also, sows fed the oil had better energy utilization during lactation, thereby enhancing the sow condition and improving baby pig performance.

Additionally, MCT oil supplementation in pregnant rats prevented obesity in their offspring but this has not been studied in other animals.”

MCT oil can be fed in several ways. One approach, said Culver, is to incorporate it into the feed as part of the formula. “For example, it can be used in extruded products.”

Alternatively, the oil may be top-dressed or mixed into the ration. “Since MCT oil is organoleptically neutral, there is not a negative effect on the feeding behavior of the animal for which the producer is supplementing,” ​added Culver.  

Horn Infographic on Benefits of MCT Oil Usage in Animals

Related topics: Safety, R&D, Swine, North America, Fats

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