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Intestinal health, feed intake and growth of weaned piglets fed antibiotic-free diets

Intestinal health, feed intake and growth of weaned piglets fed antibiotic-free diets without and with a precursor for proliferation and differentiation of epithelial cells

Butyric acid as a natural metabolite of intestinal microbial activity and/or of exogenous (dietary) origin for piglets may serve as a fuel to stimulate gut metabolic activity (differentiation/ reversion of cells from a neoplastic to a non-neoplastic phenotype and the proliferation index at the bottom of the crypt, thus exerting a trophic effect on absorption of sodium. This trophic effect determines the efficiency of ionic absorption in the gut and could have clinical implications in the genesis of post-weaning diarrhoea (PWD) in piglets.

Butyrate can also contribute to energy balance, feed intake stimulation and, thereby, to enhancing piglets' performance. The objective of our study was to evaluate the effect of supplemental calcium butyrate (0.1%) in a practical, antibiotic-free diet for piglets after weaning on their growth, feed conversion ratio, and morphological indices in the terminal duodenum and anterior jejunum (villous height, crypt depth, and villus to crypt ratios).

The effects of supplemental calcium butyrate (0.1%) in a practical, antibiotic-free diet for 28-day old piglets (n=16) on their growth, feed conversion ratio, and morphological indices in the terminal duodenum and anterior jejunum (villous height, crypt depth, and villous to crypt ratios) were studied during 7 days post-weaning. Irrespective of the sampling site, no statistically significant differences in the intestinal villous height and crypt depth of weaned piglets fed without and with 0.1% Ca-butyrate were found.

This implies that the role of supplemental butyrate as a precursor for proliferation and differentiation of epithelial cells in the small intestine of piglets fed antibiotic-free diets could not be confirmed in this study. However, due to the fact that the piglets consumed very little or nothing during the first 48-72 h after weaning, it is highly probable that the potency of dietary butyrate as a substrate for proliferation and differentiation of epithelial cells was underestimated. To prove a statistically meaningful effect of this compound, its sufficient consumption directly after weaning should be ensured.

Supplemental Ca-butyrate (0.1%) in a standard Dutch diet for 28-day old piglets did not influence (P>0.5) on their performance (feed intake and ADG) during 7 days post-weaning. Besides, this dose of Ca-butyrate exerted no effect (P>0.05) on the gut structure, as evaluated in terms of the villous height and crypt depth in the duodenum and jejunum. However, it is highly probable that the potency of dietary butyrate as a substrate for proliferation and differentiation of epithelial cells in this study was underestimated due to the fact that piglets consumed no or very little feed during first 48-72 hours after weaning.

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