Advanced biotechnologies contribute to genetic improvement

Advanced biotechnologies contribute to genetic improvement

The production and ingestion of colostrum has become a challenge in swine production. The large number of piglets born exceeds the number of teats, and the need for healthier piglets for better performance with less use of antibiotics in the following phases make the issue a source of attention and investment in the search for greater profitability.

Colostrum production begins moments before parturition and lasts an average of 12 to 24 hours, being the primary source of nutrients, immunity and developmental factors for the gastrointestinal tract. As piglets are born with a low energy reserve, it is essential to ensure that all piglets have a minimum intake of 250 grams of colostrum, reducing the risk of mortality from hypothermia and hypoglycemia and providing the necessary immunity. Low colostrum consumption is associated with high mortality rates in the first 72 hours.

There is great variation in colostrum production and composition (1 to 6 kg, with an average of 3.5 kg/matrix). Production and composition have matrix-related factors such as endocrine, nutritional, immune status and stress levels and litter characteristics. Production is not associated with the number of piglets born alive, but with the initial ability of piglets in the first sucklings and less variability in birth weight, as piglets that are able to suckle colostrum have access to the nutrient source and more agility to continue with the feeding, stimulating the mother in production. The calving order is a factor that influences production: first and second calving sows have low production both in quantity and quality in terms of immunity (immunoglobulins).

Pigs have a diffuse epitheliochorial placenta, in which there is no passage of immunity between sows and piglets via placenta, and colostrum is the only source of innate immunity. IgG is the main immunoglobulin present in colostrum and is responsible for systemic immunity, its maximum concentration in colostrum occurs 6 hours after delivery, and 12 hours after delivery it drops to 50%. IgA, responsible for protecting the mucosa, is present in colostrum and milk and guarantees protection to the animal in the following phases.

Increased colostrum production: is it possible?

Among the nutritional strategies developed and evaluated, the increase in fat and immunoglobulins were the most successful, as they are more sensitive to nutritional changes. In the search for an increase in quantity, energy levels and sources were evaluated, and it was verified that the body condition of the mother at the beginning of lactation has more impact on production than the nutritional levels evaluated in pre-lactation. Types of dietary fiber have shown success in increasing colostrum intake in low birth weight piglets and may be associated with its higher production, however the researchers say that more studies are needed to know their mode of action. And among the additives, when provided in the final phase of pregnancy and lactation, beta-glucans were successful in increasing colostrum production.

What is the source of Beta-Glucans?

Beta-glucans are non-starch polysaccharides that make up the structure of the cell walls of bacteria, yeast, algae and cereals and, depending on the source, Beta-glucans have different structures. Yeast beta-glucans have linear chains with 1,3 and 1,6 bonds. Grains such as wheat, oats and barley contain a form of beta-glucan with alternating 1,3 and 1,4 bonds and the algal beta-glucans (BG ALGA), linear chains with 1,3 bonds. The difference in structure, size and degree of branching differentiates the solubility, action and benefit in animal nutrition, mainly on the regulation of the immune system.

The linear-chain and smaller beta-glucans of algae are more easily phagocytosed by macrophages and dendritic cells. Because these have receptors that bind specifically to the 1,3 position of the Beta-glucans, that is, the 1,3 Beta-glucans have more action by just having this chain, than the 1,3 and 1,6 Beta-glucans. When comparing the effect of Beta-glucans from different sources on the activation of swine immune cells, it was found that the beta-glucans from algae had the most consistent action, as they had greater action as the concentration increased, while the beta-glucans yeast at low concentration had no effect, and at higher concentrations they had a cytotoxic effect, according to the authors of the study.

Algae beta-glucans and their benefits in colostrum production

Algae beta-glucans have greater immune action, with greater production of macrophages and dendritic cells, but with greater production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which allows the animal to be better immunologically prepared for the challenge and/or stress. with lower energy expenditure.

When evaluating the effect of beta-glucans from algae in sows in the pre-lactation and lactation phases, no difference (p>0.05) was observed in the number of piglets born, born alive and birth weight. However, there was an effect on colostrum production, with higher production in the sows that received the beta-glucans from algae (p<0.05), allowing greater colostrum intake by piglets (p<0.06), and consequently greater weight gain in piglets 18 hours after farrowing (p<0.05) shown in Graphs 1 and 2.

The beta-glucans from algae also had an effect on the concentration of immunoglobulins in colostrum, promoting greater production of IgG, IgA and IgM at 18 hours after farrowing, and consequently, an increase in the serum concentration of these immunoglobulins in piglets from the sows evaluated at 4 days. of age (Graphs 3 and 4).

The daycare phase is a phase of high challenge, colostrum consumption has a great impact on performance and support to the challenge in this phase.

A lower concentration of hepatoglobin was observed in 42-day-old piglets from sows supplemented with beta-glucans from algae during pre-lactation and lactation, indicating less inflammation with lower energy cost for the animal and greater contraction of IgA, indicating greater protection from mucosa, as this is a marker for checking intestinal health in piglets.


Colostrum consumption is essential for piglets as a source of nutrients and immunity. Production is related to factors related to the matrix and litter weight at birth and its viability. The most challenging period of piglet life is the nursery phase, and like weaning weight, immune status is crucial for future performance and survival. Among the strategies to increase production and improve colostrum composition, algae beta-glucans, when provided in the final stage of gestation and during lactation, promoted greater colostrum production and greater consumption by piglets, promoting greater weight gain in the piglets. first hours after birth. The use of algae beta-glucans in the matrices also promotes better intestinal health and immunity in the nursery phase.

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Source: By Mara Costa, DSc, Manager of Technical Services – Pigs at Kemin Animal Nutrition and Health in South America.

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