Probiotics For Extra Support For Piglets Around Weaning

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Article | 28.01.2024
Wouter Van der Veken

With zinc oxide no longer available in swine feeds at pharmacological levels, producers need to take a broader approach around weaning to prevent problems. Feed additives such as probiotics have a major part to play.

With zinc oxide (ZnO) no longer available to support piglets around weaning, gut health management has become more important than ever to get animals through this critical period. Approaching the topic as broadly as possible also fits in a sustainable production process, as it is the total sum of the parts that determines the repeatability tomorrow. 

That thinking was applied on a commercial sow farm in Denmark, housing a total of 600 DanBred and Topigs Norsvin 50/50 sows (batch-farrowing). The farm experienced a 3-6% increase in piglet mortality compared to the historic baseline, with a peak of 11-13% in terms of total mortality. Meningitis and joint inflammation were observed, with Streptococcus suis being isolated in multiple cases. In terms of set-up, water quality was ensured with the help of a continuous electro-chemically activated (ECA) water treatment system. There was also a buffer unit in the middle of the post-weaning facilities, containing weaker weaned piglets for observation. 

For a period of 17 weeks, the following changes were made: 

  • Clostridium butyricum probiotic was added to all weaning feeds (2 kg Miya-Gold/tonne, provided by Huvepharma). Four weeks later, the same probiotic was also included in all pre-weaning feeds
  • The number of piglet feed formulations was reduced from four to three
  • All piglet transport through the buffer unit was stopped
  • The ECA treatment was used more selectively

In the first weeks after the changes began, there was an immediate clear decrease in piglet mortality (13% to 8%). Another noticeable drop was recorded when the probiotic was added to the pre-weaning diets as well (8% to 5.5%) and again from the point at which the operation only contained piglets that had received the probiotic from birth until 15 kg of body weight (5.5% to 3%). At the end of the 17 weeks, average mortality was significantly lower than it had been before the interventions, returning to the historic levels from before the initial increase.


Table 1. Cause of piglet mortality (%) before and after the changes


When the causes of death were evaluated, brain and joint inflammations were significantly lower after the changes were made (Table 1). This type of inflammation can often be traced back to a decrease in gut health, which leads to issues such as leaky gut syndrome. This allows commensal bacteria to translocate into the systemic circulation, causing infections in locations they normally do not reach. Supporting gut health reduces the risk of such translocation, as well as the resulting inflammation.


C. butyricum to support piglets

Based on the results above, the importance of supporting gut health around weaning is clear. Feed additives such as probiotics have their part in gut health management plans, especially if novel strains such as C. butyricum are considered. Doing so minimises the risk of certain types of inflammation, as well as the associated mortality.


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