The main target in pig farming is to maximise animal growth and its efficiency. This can be achieved by using growth-promoting substances which, when added in feed, modify digestive and metabolic pathways in order to improve feed digestion and achieve a significant increase in weight gain.
Antibiotic Growth Promoters (AGPs) have been some of the most frequently used additives in porcine production for the last 50 years. They are used at subtherapeutic doses and modify the animal’s digestive microbial flora. Its broad administration has led to the appearance of multiple negative consequences, such as the appearance of bacterial resistances in human medicine, that have set up a widespread tendency of the consumers to reject these products, in favour of natural and organic products. Moreover, legislations from many countries are banning or reducing the number of these products that can be used.
Alternatives to the use of AGPs in pig farming: Intestinal Conditioners
For the last decades, research on alternatives to AGPs has been carried out so as to find a way to maintain the current productive parameters without using these products. That is because it is essential to develop new growth promoters that do not leave residues in meat, nor promote the appearance of microbial resistances and that meet the current consumers’ requirements. Proving the efficacy and affordability of these new alternatives is also as imperative.
Natural additives based on plant extracts seem to be a good alternative since, thanks to its origin, they are well-accepted in the market and do not require a withdrawal period. An example in this area are the Intestinal Conditioners, based on pronutrients, active molecules from a botanical source that, in this case, promote the intestinal epithelium’s regeneration by modifying gene expression. Their use help getting mucosa’s physiology optimized, which improves feed digestion, nutrient absorption and avoids pathogenic microbes’ growth.
In short, Intestinal Conditioners act like growth promoters with the advantage that, since the intestinal flora is not directly affected, they do not cause the appearance of bacterial nor fungal resistances.
Field trial: Intestinal Conditioner vs. AGPs in piglets
A trial to test the efficacy of an Intestinal Conditioner composed of botanical extracts has been carried out, comparing it with an AGPs-based therapy that combines chlortetracycline and tilmicosin in pigs weighing 5 kg initially.
The trial lasted 42 days and the efficacy of the products was measured by evaluating the Feed Conversion Rate (FCR) and morbidity (%).
There were two batches with 24 piglets each:
- AGP batch: feed with chlortetracycline (1st week) + tilmicosin (2nd and 3rd week).
- Intestinal Conditioner batch (IC): feed with an Intestinal Conditioner, from the beginning until the end of the trial (42 days).
The administration of an Intestinal Conditioned got a better FCR in comparison with AGPs (3.36% better), which can be translated into a better feed efficiency: less amount of feed is needed to gain 1 kg of meat.
Talking about morbidity, some cases of diarrhoea appeared with the use of AGPs. On the contrary, there were no cases in the Intestinal Conditioner batch, which verifies the product’s capability to improve the intestinal mucosa, keeping and enhancing the balance of the microflora.
According to the trial results, it can be concluded that Intestinal Conditioners are a valid alternative to the use of AGPs in piglets.
Pronutrients with an Intestinal Conditioner effect are available in the nutritional supplement called ALQUERNAT NEBSUI (Biovet S.A.).