Probiotics good for pigs: trial

Aids digestion | Pigs on a high fibre diet benefitted from the bacterial supplement

It’s difficult to watch TV without encountering yogurt commercials, usually featuring smiling women and their happy, dancing bellies.

Yogurt makers promote probiotics as the key to human digestive health, and animal scientists now claim that the bacteria could also radically improve hogs’ ability to digest certain feed.

U.S Department of Agriculture scientists in Iowa have discovered that probiotics boost fibre fermentation rates and reduce manure production by 20 percent when fed to hogs that eat high-fibre feed such as dried distillers grain.

Cherie Ziemer, a USDA microbiologist in Ames, Iowa, conducted an experiment in which she fed pigs either a typical diet or a high fibre diet containing soybean hulls and corn DDGs.

She also fed them one of three probiotic additives. Pigs that received one of the bacterial supplements produced 20 percent less manure, gained more weight and improved their blood cholesterol levels.

The USDA has applied for a patent on the successful probiotic, which Ziemer said could reduce manure volumes, boost pig performance and hopefully increase producer profits.

A spokesperson for the Iowa Pork Produces Association wasn’t familiar with Ziemer’s research and said that if Iowa farmers are feeding probiotics to their hogs, he hasn’t heard about it.

Denise Beaulieu, a nutrition re-search scientist at the Prairie Swine Centre in Saskatoon, said Canadian researchers are looking at probiotics, but she hadn’t heard about the Iowa study.

“The idea of probiotics is, you are consuming beneficial micro-organisms and trying to colonize your gut,” she said. “When you eat yogurt with an active culture, you’re eating a probiotic.”

Beaulieu said it makes sense to use a probiotic in combination with DDGs because pigs may not have the necessary gut enzymes to digest the material.

“These (DDGs) might be very high in fibre, so the probiotics could assist with the breakdown (of the feed).”

The probiotics could also increase the amount of beneficial bacteria within a pig’s gut, allowing the healthy micro-organisms to outcompete the harmful bacteria.

Beaulieu said the challenge of probiotics is how to feed them to pigs.

“One of the big areas of research is how to get probiotics into an animal efficiently,” she said.

“For example, you might have these bugs encased in something, so it looks just like dried feed.”

Ziemer said the bacteria from her experiment could be fed as a liquid supplement or possibly freeze-dried and mixed with feed.

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