Meta-analysis shows improved zootechnical and economic performance in piglets fed AGP-free diets
A meta-analysis conducted by Trouw Nutrition, a Nutreco company, found that a feed additive containing a synergistic blend of organic acids, medium chain fatty acids, patented alkyl esters of MCFA's, target release butyrates and a phenolic compound significantly improved zootechnical and economic performance in piglets fed an antibiotic growth promoter (AGP)-free diet compared to a control group. Drawing on studies conducted between 2012 and 2017, this meta-analysis includes 2,668 weaned piglets in Asia, Europe and North America.
Feed additives blend improve performance in AGP-free diet
All animals in the studies were fed an antibiotic growth promoter (AGP)-free diet. Performance metrics of animals receiving an in-feed dietary supplement containing a synergistic blend of organic acids, medium chain fatty acids, patented alkyl esters of MCFA's, target release butyrates and a phenolic compound were compared to a control group receiving no feed additive. Performance benefits observed in piglets receiving the gut health improving additives blend included a 6.2% (p < 0.001) improvement in average daily gain (ADG) and an average improvement in feed efficiency of 3.2% (p < 0.001) compared to the control group. From an economic perspective, the meta-analysis found the dietary supplementation with gut health improving additives blend resulted in an additional €1.31 financial gain per piglet (Figure 1). Economic benefits were calculated based on the average outcome of the analysis.
Figure 1. Proven results of the gut health improving additives blend in the meta-analysis
Evaluating findings in context with earlier findings
Beyond delivering improved performance against a control group, the gut health improving additives blend also showed improved ADG and feed efficiency compared to animals receiving an AGP in studies conducted post-1985. Researchers compared findings from the meta-analysis to performance metrics from earlier studies on AGPs (Table 1). The comparison shows the effects of AGPs in recent studies are much less pronounced compared to studies conducted between 1950 and 1985.
Animals receiving the gut health improving feed additives in the 2012-2017 meta-analysis studies showed a 6.2% improvement in average daily gain compared to a 5.0% improvement among animals receiving an AGP. Similarly, animals receiving the feed additive in the meta-analysis studies showed a 3.2% improvement in feed efficiency compared to animals receiving an AGP that showed a 1.4% improvement (Figure 2).
Table 1. Efficacy of antibiotic growth promoters for pigs, early and recent studies (Laxminayaran, 2015). Early studies: data from 453, 298 and 443 experiments, involving 13,632, 5,783 and 13,140 pigs for the three phases, respectively. Dritz, 2002: Data from five and four experiments, involving 3,648 and 2,660 pigs, for the nursery and grower-finisher phases, respectively. NSS = not statistically significant.
*Figure 2: Comparison of the efficacy of the gut health improving additives blend and antibiotic growth promoters (AGP) on the zootechnical performance of piglets.
*Based on Laxminayran, 2015
** Based on results of the gut health improving additives blend meta-analysis
Mode of action targets stable microbiota and strong gut barrier
Trouw Nutrition continues to study the mode of action of feed additives to support animals' gut health and performance. The feed additive in the meta-analysis contains a synergistic blend of organic acids with high pKa, medium chain fatty acids, patented alkyl esters, target release butyrates and a phenolic compound. Designed to support gut health, the feed additive's mode of action stabilizes the microbiota and strengthens gut wall integrity. This mode of action contrasts to AGPs which target growth performance mainly via direct effects on microbiota in the intestinal tract only. The gut health improving additives blend containing organic acids aims to steer gut health by improving gut wall integrity for optimal nutrient uptake and by stabilizing gut microbiota. It is well known that a stable, diverse microbiota and a strong intestinal wall are important for gut health and animal performance, particularly in antibiotic-reduced or antibiotic-free production systems.
The meta-analysis results are encouraging for swine producers seeking to remove AGPs from their production practices. The performance improvements documented in the meta-analysis suggest it is possible for farmers to address growing concerns about antimicrobial resistance without sacrificing animal performance or producer profitability. The improvements noted in animals receiving the feed additive were seen in both optimal and suboptimal digestion situations and in countries with varying management systems and hygiene conditions. Remarking on the gut health improving additive, Yvonne van der Horst, Trouw Nutrition Global Product Manager stated, "As swine producers seek to address both regulatory bodies' and consumers' demand for pork produced without antibiotics, this meta-analysis provides encouragement that improved performance and economics can be achieved without AGPs."
Research to feed the future
Trouw Nutrition's four-step strategy can support animal producers' efforts to maintain the gut health of their animals. Nutrition and feed formulation including the use of functional nutritional additives help to prevent pathogen intake and support digestion by improving gut wall integrity, managing microbiota and positively modulating the natural defence system.
Coen Smits, Trouw Nutrition R&D Director, noted the company's investments in research is driving animal nutrition innovation. Trouw Nutrition's five global research centres conduct more than 70 studies annually. Additional validation trials are conducted around the globe. Remarking on the meta-analysis, Coen Smits stated, "There have been many claims in the marketplace about effective alternatives to AGPs, but few claims have demonstrated their efficacy in a meta-analysis based on multiple studies conducted in regions around the globe. This meta-analysis demonstrates Trouw Nutrition's focus on scientific discovery and bringing research-based innovations to the marketplace."
About Trouw Nutrition: Trouw Nutrition, a Nutreco company, is a global leader in innovative feed specialties, premixes, feed additives and nutritional services for the animal nutrition industry. It provides products, models and services to boost productivity and support animal health through all life stages. With unique, species-specific solutions, Trouw Nutrition has been meeting the needs of farmers and home-mixers, feed producers, integrators and distributors since 1931. Headquartered in the Netherlands, the company has locations in 28 countries and employs approximately 8,000 people.
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