Resistant starch has shown to have positive effects on piglet gut health and animal welfare
By Kate Ayers
Resistant starch could be a potential alternative to in-feed antibiotics and promote gut health and function in young pigs.
Researchers at the University of Manitoba reviewed the effect that resistant starch has on gut health in comparison with in-feed antibiotics, according to a paper published on Friday in the journal Animal Nutrition.
The post-weaning period can be a stressful time for piglets, threatening their survival and potential growth. In-feed antibiotics helped combat this problem for years but with more judicious antibiotic use coming into effect, researchers are looking for effective alternatives.
Resistant starch shows potential to help reduce in-feed antibiotics. It withstands enzymatic digestion in the upper gastrointestinal tract and moves into the hindgut where it is fermented by microorganisms, the study said.
Microbial fermentation of resistant starch in the hindgut then results in the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA).
These SCFA play several roles in promoting gut health in pigs, including the growth and proliferation of colonic and cecal cells, increased expression of genes involved in gut development, and the creation of an acidic environment, the study said.
Furthermore, an acidic environment in a pig’s stomach suppresses the growth of bad bacteria and promotes the growth of beneficial organisms.
Resistant starch could help improve piglet immunity and thus reduce the incidence of diarrhea due to its prebiotic effects, the study said.
This starch has other animal welfare benefits as well, such as enhancing the absorption of minerals like calcium and iron and making pigs feel fuller longer.
Resistant starch is found in grains, seeds, legumes, raw potatoes and rice.
However, supplementing resistant starch for a long period of time or in large quantities can compromise growth as SCFA energy production is assumed to be less efficient than glucose, the study said.
As a result, further work is required to determine the ideal length of supplementation and the adequate amount of resistant starch to use in the diet to prevent growth depression.
The full study can be found in the April issue of the journal Animal Nutrition.
National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff. Des Moines, IA USA photo