June 08, 2020

Interpretive Summary: Probiotics in weaned pigs

Interpretive Summary: The effect of lactose and a prototype Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product on digestibility, nitrogen balance, and intestinal function of weaned pigs

By: Anne Wallace

The weaning transition is a stressful period, resulting in reduced performance or increased incidence of gastrointestinal disease in weaned pigs. Probiotics may potentially ameliorate the negative impacts of postweaning stress. In this April 2020 Translational Animal Science study, researchers studied the impacts of adding lactose and a prototype Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product (FP) to pig feed.

The benefit of probiotics is multifaceted. Probiotic bacteria and yeasts produce a variety of fermentation byproducts which may impart antimicrobial, nutritive, or anti-inflammatory properties. Probiotics may also shift the microbial population towards microbes beneficial to metabolism and digestion.

The authors of this study hypothesized that addition of lactose and FP to nursery pig feed would lessen the negative impacts of weaning transition. They monitored the growth performance, digestibility, nitrogen (N) balance and intestinal barrier function of weaned pigs. Pigs were fed one of four diets with or without added lactose and FP, as follows: lactose(+)FP(-), lactose(+)FP(+), lactose(-)FP(+), lactose(-)FP(-). Apparent total tract digestibly of dry matter, gross energy, and N balance and retention were determined by collection of urine and fecal samples. Intestinal health was evaluated in jejunal and ileal tissue.

Results indicated that feed intake, digestibility markers, and the retention of N was significantly increased with addition of lactose. There were no noted impacts from FP. No change was seen in inflammatory or intestinal barrier function markers in any of the groups.

Overall, the results of this study suggest that the addition of lactose to feed does improve the performance, digestion and retention of N in nursery pigs. Although there was no noted benefit of lactose or FP to intestinal barrier function in this study, combining lactose with other probiotic bacteria with known benefits for potential synergistic effects may be an area of future study.