Early weaning: a challenge for immunity
Weaning in intensive production
The urgent needs to meet the growing of humanity needs have become essential to increase food production. In recent years pork production, which occupies an important role in the structure of human nutrition has been increased efficiency and production through the application of genetic selection, management and sanitation practices (among other measures).
One of the most frequent management practices used currently is the early weaning of piglets in order to accelerate the intake of solid food and the appearance of the next estrous cycle in breeding. Therefore weaning has become one of the most stressful period in life of the pig and shows that, especially if it is done before 5 weeks old, causes a series biochemical reactions due to stress resulted with detriment of immunity. A lower intake of colostrum rich with immunoglobulins increases the susceptibility of pigs to infections by microorganisms’ that under normal conditions are considered a little or no pathogens; for example, strains used for attenuated vaccine.
Improvements in various fields such as nutrition, health and management practices have served to minimize some of the adverse effects of weaning stress. However, it is often necessary to use other methods to prevent immune suppression caused by the advancement of the separation of piglets from the mother.
Stimulation of immunity: plant extracts
The plant extracts have been widely used in human medicine and are of special interest in animal production due to its multiple biological effects, which make them capable of replacing chemicals and improve farm productivity.
Supplementation of diets in post weaning piglets with different types of plant extracts have been widely studied and has shown that allows an improvement of the production parameters. Specifically, some plant species contain active molecules that promote immune activation, such as Echinacea purpurea or Zingiber officinale among others. These molecules derived from the route of shikimate acid called ProNutrients. Thanks to the stimulation of immune cells it increases resistance of piglets to infections by microorganisms such as E. coli and that way counteracts the negative effect of early weaning on immunity.
Graph. Example of the effect of plant extracts in post-weaning piglets. Concentration of cytokines in liver of post-weaning piglets with supplying diet of RD without additives or RD + vegetable extracts. a, b indicate differences between batches (data concerning the study by I. Taranu et al. 2012).
It has also been found that to induce an immune response it is important the composition, origin and the inclusion ratio of the extract in the diet; therefore, the existence of in vitro and especially in vivo of the products to strengthen the immune system is vitally important to prove their effectiveness.
MV. Júlia Pié Orpí
Veterinary Technical support to the area of Latin America at Biovet S.A. Laboratories Official Veterinary Services (SVO) in poultry slaughterhouse