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A sow and three piglets

A sow and three piglets

Antibiotic Alternative Boosts Piglet Health

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If you've ever been stressed out about something, then you know it can take a toll on you, not only mentally and emotionally but also physically. The same applies to livestock animals.

In piglets, for example, stress from events like weaning or transport can hinder their immune function and leave them more susceptible to disease. Feeding the piglets dietary antibiotics was one solution to help them cope.

In West Lafayette, IN, a team specializing in novel approaches to ensuring animal welfare and post-harvest food safety tried a different approach that began with amino acids, the basic building blocks of proteins important to many bodily functions.

One of these amino acids, L-glutamine, shows potential to serve as a natural antibiotic alternative to promote growth and well-being in piglets. ARS researchers discovered this after conducting trials in which feeding supplemental L-glutamine as an antibiotic replacement to piglets improved their growth and intestinal health, especially during stress events.

The discovery is especially timely given the 2017 Veterinary Feed Directive issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banning the use of antibiotics in swine diets to promote growth. In the trials, newly weaned and transported piglets given L-glutamine in their diets to replace antibiotics ate 60 percent more food than those in other groups given either antibiotics or no antibiotics. In addition, piglets fed L-glutamine to replace antibiotics had less intestinal damage and showed fewer behaviors associated with illness than those not provided antibiotics.

Encouraged by the results, ARS has filed a patent on the amino acid-based approach.

Related Information

Article: Alternative Antibiotic Gives Piglets a Boost