Dietary fiber and its effects on pig performance and welfare – Part I

17 May 2023

Dietary fiber and its effects on pig performance and welfare – Part I

Dietary fiber (DF) has gained significant attention recently and its importance in pig nutrition is now well recognized.

Pigs are often supplied with nutrient and energy rich diets to meet their productive requirements in a cost-effective manner.

The integration of fiber components into complete pig rations may require additional technical efforts and lead to faster satiety in those animals.

The aforementioned feeding practice contradicts the natural feeding behavior of pigs,which can lead to stress and behavioral problems. The latter being considered as factors that can significantly impact animal welfare and health.

Therefore, wellness-oriented feeding concepts often include the administration of whole foods, which are rich in dietary fiber (DF) or the supply additional forage as a satiety component.

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Depending on chemical composition, but in particular on microbial solubility  and fermentability, liquid diets (LD) can have varying effects on pigs’ digestive tract and metabolism.

Soluble fiber (SF) sources contain mixed-bond glucans, hemicelluloses, arabinoxylans, xylogjans, galactomannans, pectins, gums, guar and agar and fructo- and indigestible galactooligosaccharides.

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Partially insoluble fibers (PIFs) are composed of cellulose, lignin and different forms of resistant starches.

 

Dietary Fiber in Sows

Dietary fiber (DF) has the potential to influence the physiology and health of sows and their litters.  The effects of DF on feed consumption, and more specifically during lactation, are of special interest. Considering that higher feed intake levels during this period enhance health and performance in both sows and piglets.

In regards to reproductive performance, DF has shown to have positive impacts since the onset of puberty. This was demonstrated in first-timers fed enriched diets with soluble DF until mating. Allowing these animals to reach their reproductive maturity 15.6 days earlier.
dietary fiber

In addition to this, their litters were characterized by being more uniform and having a reduced number of stunted piglets.

With regard to achieving successful insemination,  sows fed with fiber rich diets supplemented with inulin and cellulose, sugar beet pulp (SBP), wheat bran (WB) or lupins demonstrated potentiating effects on oocyte maturity and quality. As well as exhibiting beneficial impacts on their ovarian follicle reserve.

The mechanisms behind the observed effects could be related to increased production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the gut, increased serotonin secretion and an improved immune response based on T helper lymphocytes 2 (Th2) in pregnant sows. Exerting a positive impact on embryonic survival.

The inclusion of (13%) Ground wheat straw  in gestation diets, increased litter size and total litter weight at birth, which could be related to higher feed intake.

On the other hadd, sows fed an ad libitum gestation diet with 23% WB, 20% SBP and 14% oat bran,exhibited no significant effects on their reproductive performance..

 

Nutrient Digestibility

Feed intake and nutrient digestibility in sows can be influenced by high-fiber (HF) diets.

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More specifically, sows which received fiber-enriched diets such as 53% corn cobs, 43% WB or 53% oat husks’, presented lower serum levels of vitamin B12 and minerals.

The observed effects could be due to the modulation of cecal and colonic vitamin B12-producing  microbiota. As well as due to fiber’s mineral  binding capacity and a reduction in mineral absorption time due to an increased passage rate.

Preprandial prolactin concentrations were higher with the inclusion oat straw, while postprandial insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and prolactin increased with dietary inclusion of processed wheat straw.
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Therefore, oat straw was considered to be more beneficial than wheat straw. However, the underlying mechanisms could not be further elucidated.

Surprisingly, one study showed higher levels of postprandial insulin in sows fed HF diets, containing 8% soybean husk, WB, sunflower meal and SBP. Meanwhile no effects were observed on prolactin levels.

Effect of fiber on animal welfare




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