Targeted nutrition is a critical factor in supporting the healthy development of piglets and the subsequent success of swine production.
The 30-day weaning period, during which piglets transition from sow milk to solid foods, is a crucial phase in their development.
Studies show that implementing early-life nutrition can have positive outcomes, including improvements in weight gain and a reduction in the occurrence of diarrhoea in the pre- and post-weaning periods.1 Improvements in nutrient efficiency can promote an abundance of beneficial bacteria in the piglets’ gut, which in turn makes them less susceptible to gastrointestinal infections.1
But feed cost is a major challenge. The rising cost of animal feed, due to an increase in commodity and energy prices, is expected to reach 70% of total cost of production.2
Sustainability, too, is a concern. Against this backdrop, the industry is steering towards sustainable feed production practices, incorporating higher environmental standards, advanced technologies, using circular ingredients like food waste, and practicing regenerative agriculture. However, the adoption of more environmentally responsible measures is not without its financial challenges.
Challenges of weaning stress
The process of weaning causes alterations in the morphology and function of the piglet’s small intestine, the primary site for the digestion and absorption of essential nutrients. Insufficient secretion of digestive enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract hinders the effective digestion of solid food, leading to the breakdown of the intestinal physical barrier, the disruption of tight junctions, intestinal permeability and imbalances of the gut microbiota.3
The intestinal environment is then left vulnerable to the invasion of pathogenic microorganisms, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli). If infected, this invasion prompts the intestinal mucosa to release inflammatory factors, damaging the function of the intestinal mucosal barrier. Ultimately, weaning stress can cause dysbiosis of the gut microbiota, heightening the risk of gastrointestinal disturbances, resulting in issues such as diarrhoea, reduced feed intake and subsequent restricted growth.3
These effects are challenging, resulting in increased production costs and lower profitability. However, it has been shown that introducing functional feed additives, for example a multi-enzyme blend, as part of piglets’ diet can help improve growth performance, delivering financial gains for producers.
A multi-enzyme blend tailored for piglet nutrition
As different diets can have multiple anti-nutritional factors (impacting digestion and reduced animal growth performance), introducing an enzyme blend can help support nutrient digestion and absorption in piglets.
Axtra® PRIME is a multi-enzyme solution formulated to improve the nutrient digestion and utilisation of piglet’s feed. The feed additive comprises of xylanase, beta-glucanase, amylase, and protease enzymes, collectively aimed at improving nutrient utilisation. The formulation works to create a healthy gut, fostering a favourable nutribiotic state in the piglet's gastrointestinal system, encouraging good intestinal health and optimal growth performance.
Enzyme activity is influenced by the pH environment, a characteristic of both endogenous and exogenous enzymes. The optimal pH for enzyme function can also be associated with their locations in the gastrointestinal tract. Xylanase reaches its highest activity at pH5, but there is still activity between pH3 to 6.5 which replicates the pH in the stomach and small intestine of the piglet.
Elevated xylanase activity within the stomach of piglets results in increased degradation of arabinoxylan, leading to the release of nutrients and the production of short-chain oligosaccharides (AXOS). These AXOS exhibit a prebiotic effect.
Similar to xylanase, beta-glucanase exhibits activity across the pH range of 3 to 6.5, with its peak activity observed at pH 3.5. When beta-glucanase is highly active in the stomach of piglets, it facilitates the early breakdown of beta-glucans in the gastrointestinal tract. Xylanase and beta-glucanase work in synergy together as they both operate within a comparable pH range, enhancing cell wall hydrolysis and releasing encapsulated nutrients more effectively.
The effects of protease found in Axtra® PRIME begins in the small intestine of piglets and extends from the duodenum to the ileum. As this reaction occurs in the entirety of the small intestine, the protease complements and enhances the piglet's endogenous enzymes, optimising effective protein digestion. The protease demonstrates high efficacy in cleaving peptides, especially at low relative activity, which aligns with its environment where the protein is absorbed in the small intestine.
Amylase has a broad pH range aligning with almost the entire pH spectrum of the piglet's gastrointestinal tract. As the digestion period of starch can vary, the exogenous amylase in Axtra® PRIME works with the piglet's own amylase. This collaborative effort helps to break down starch, releasing glucose not only in the stomach but also in the small intestine of the piglet.
Axtra® PRIME works at the optimal pH in order to maximise nutrient absorption. This combination of enzymes breaks down fibre and undigested protein and starch, increases nutrient and small peptide release and ensures better faecal consistency. Studies show that incorporating Axtra® PRIME into piglet’s diet can improve feed intake (7-22 kg) by 3% and reduce diarrhoea frequency by 32.3%, resulting in improved net benefits per pig across multiple diet types compared to control diets.
In addition, Axtra® PRIME’s is free-flowing and dust-free for accurate handling and stable up to 90ºC meaning it is suitable for most feed mills.
Improving sustainability and feed cost
As the demand for animal protein grows, Axtra® PRIME’s capacity to allow the use of diverse, locally sourced raw materials not only caters to the nutritional requirements of piglets but also aligns with sustainable agricultural practices.
“Axtra® PRIME allows producers to reduce use of high-cost ingredients such as milk products or fishmeal, and increase the inclusion of cheaper vegetable proteins such as soybean meal or dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS), resulting in return of investment greater than 1:3,” says Ester Vinyeta, Swine Innovation Platform Leader, Danisco Animal Nutrition and Health, IFF.
Considering this, a reduction in feed costs can be achieved as luxurious and expensive ingredients are not used. Incorporating Axtra® PRIME with a corn, soybean meal, and barley diet can increase net benefit by 2.9% per pig. Alternatively, Axtra® PRIME and mixed grain can increase profit between 2.6% to 4.3% per pig.
Through targeted nutrition, with a carefully selected multi-enzyme blend, piglet feed nutritionists can navigate industry challenges effectively, ensuring a healthier, more sustainable and more profitable future for swine production.
1. Luo, C.; Xia, B.; Zhong, R.; et al. (2022). Early-Life Nutrition Interventions Improved Growth Performance and Intestinal Health via the Gut Microbiota in Piglets. Frontiers in nutrition, 8, 783688.
2. High Level Expert Forum - How to feed the world. Global agriculture towards 2050.
3. Tang, X.; Xiong, K.; Fang, R.; et al. (2022). Weaning stress and intestinal health of piglets: A review. Frontiers in immunology, 13, 1042778.