Zinc oxide ban: Seaweed feed additive player has piglet intestinal health on its radar

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/kadmy
© GettyImages/kadmy

Related tags Zinc oxide piglet seaweed prebiotic

UK headquartered feed additive firm, Ocean Harvest Technology (OHT), claims the findings of a recent study indicate its seaweed-based prebiotic product is effective in low zinc piglet diets.

The EU ban on the use of therapeutic levels of zinc oxide (ZnO) in weaned piglets came into force in June this year, bringing the intestinal health of those young animals into the spotlight. In that context, OHT has released the results of an unpublished trial it carried out at the University of Leeds assessing the suitability of its seaweed blend, OceanFeed Swine (OFS), for inclusion in the diets of piglets post-weaning.

The producer regularly collaborates with UK academic institutions on such research, having enaged with the University of Reading and Queen's University Belfast on previous studies. 

The study

OceanFeed Swine (OFS) seaweed blend was evaluated in a 42-day university trial with post-weaning piglets fed a high-Zn (3100 ppm), low-Zn (150 ppm) or low-Zn plus OceanFeed diets.

Each diet was fed to 12 pen replicates each of five piglets in a 3-phase feeding program.

The OFS diet gave the highest 42-day liveweight, while day-20 plasma Interlukin-6 tended to be lower in the high-Zn and OFS diets, indicating a more stable immune system, according to the findings.

The relative abundance in 20-day faecal samples of Ruminococcaceae,​ a butyrate-producing bacterial family, was increased in the low-Zn and OFS diets, while microbiome alpha-diversity was also greatest in piglets fed these diets, demonstrating a healthy microbiome as the pigs move into the grower phase, as per the results.

Dr Hadden Graham, CCO at Ocean Harvest Technology, said that following the EU ban on the use of therapeutic Zno in piglet diets, this trial shows the benefits previously seen with OFS in the antibiotic-free piglet segment, encouraging a healthy gut microbiome and better performance.

Mode of action 

In terms of potential mode of action, Dr Graham told us that OFS comprises a proprietary blend of different brown, red and green seaweed species, and the bioactives in the various seaweed species contained in the product have a prebiotic effect.

The prebiotic effects of seaweed polysaccharides have been demonstrated in trials, confirming positive impacts on the beneficial, butyrate-producing gastrointestinal microbiota. Butyrate producers serve a key role in intestinal energy provision, in modulating immune responses, thereby affecting several key metabolic pathways in the body.”

Combining different seaweed species generates more diverse sources of prebiotic fibers compared to relying only on a single species or on a land plant-derived polysaccharide as a source of prebiotic fiber, he said.

Poultry and dairy trials 

Ocean Harvest Technology said it has conducted around 30 trials over the past five years in multiple species including swine, poultry, ruminants, aqua, pets and equine. “These trials have shown that the prebiotic effect of our seaweed blends results in specific benefits in each species. For example, they have demonstrated lower mortality and higher growth rates in broilers, increased egg production and quality in layers and increased milk production in dairy cows,” ​said Dr Graham.

OHT's seaweed blends are produced at its facility in Vietnam, while it sources its seaweeds in the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Malaysia. 

While the current penetration of seaweed blended products as a mainstream ingredient in the global animal feed industry is still quite low, the comapny said it has gained “significant”​ traction with customers in the feed sector over the past few years.

OHT has been investing in the area of R&D, expanding the number of trials it runs to demonstrate additional benefits of its products to existing and new customers. “We have also increased the size and experience of our global sales force, broadened our supply chain and we continue to expand our production capacity," ​said the CCO.

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