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Qualitative studies on ileal digesta in weaning piglets

The objective of our investigation was the evaluation of ileal digesta - qualitatively and quantitatively - in piglets before and after weaning, with special reference to protein and amino acid digestion. To implement this aim we conducted two main experimental complexes: a long-term slaughter trial for the qualitative aspects and two balance trials for the quantitative part. During the slaughter trial animals were sacrificed at different stages before and after weaning: -6, -4, -2 days pre-weaning, weaning day (28 d of age), +1, +2, +5, +8 and +15 days post-weaning.

Dietary regimes comprised sow milk as sole feed (no creep feed) before and after weaning four different starters, two reference diets based on soybean meal and whey and two home-produced diets based on cereals and legume seeds. Reference diets differed in supplementation of in-feed antibiotic avilamycin (+AB, -AB) and home-produced diets in crude fibre content, being either 3 or 8% (LF, HF).

In the slaughter trial we applied a wide range of analysis, determining pH, DM, LA, VFA, NH3, biogenic amines and D-alanine and investigating the luminal microflora with classical and molecular techniques at ileal level. Although we observed changes in some parameters during weaning transition - decrease in ammonia and VFA, increase in LA - these scarcely proofed to be statistical significant. Also classical and molecular microbiology revealed a remarkable stability in the universal ileal microflora of piglets receiving sow milk or starter diets.

Observed changes were more age-related than influenced by dietary treatment. Only the Lactobacillus spp. group displayed a differential response: here we could establish a diet-dependent change in the Lactobacillus spp. population. The home-produced diets induced a more diverse population than the reference diets, being more comparable to the Lactobacillus spp. population of suckling piglets. Lactic acid producing bacteria are regarded as health beneficial, especially in the GIT of young animals such as weaning piglets.

Therefore the promotion of this group by the home-produced diets can be considered as a major benefit for intestinal health. However, more studies are required to receive statistical relevant evidence. Furthermore we detected a negative correlation between the Lactobacillus spp. group and yeast (Pearson Correlation Coefficient r = -0.24, p = 0.02) and a highly positive correlation to amines (putrescine = 0.41, p < 0.0001; histamine r = 0.36, p = 0.0005; cadaverine r = 0.35, r = 0.0006; spermidine r = 0.23, p = 0.03; spermine r = 0.28, p = 0.007). The inverse relationship with yeast was reported, but evidence for biogenic amines in the porcine gut is rare in literature.

There are some in vitro studies reporting production of biogenic amines in this bacterial species, but the main contribution to this field comes from food technology rather than from animal physiology research. These results suggest a crucial role of Lactobacillus spp. in the terminal ileum of weaning piglets. Further investigation is required to elucidate those interesting interrelationships in the GIT of farm animals, especially in swine.

Reported by

Research Institute for the Biology of Farm Animals, Research Unit of Nutritional Physiology
Wilhelm-Stahl-Allee 2
18196 Dummerstorf
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