Effects of Addition of Fructooligosaccharide (FOS) and Sugar Beet Pulp to Weanling Pig Diets on Performance, Microflora and Intestinal Health

Purdue University 1999 Swine Research Report. The period around weaning is a critical time in the life of a young piglet. The change from milk to solid feed, the absence of maternal immunoglobulins, and the stress of a change of environment and littermates can endanger the intestinal health of the animal. The immune system of the pig is not fully developed, and this makes the animal vulnerable to the activity of pathogens. To reduce stress during this transition and decrease the negative effects on the pigs health, subtherapeutic levels of feed grade antibiotics are used extensively. However, the use of antibiotics in animal feed is a cause for concern, because of the risk of selection of resistant strains of microorganisms. A total ban on several feed grade antibiotics may result in the near future. To maintain animal health and productivity in such a scenario, alternatives have to be evaluated. One of the alternatives for growth promoting antibiotics could be the concept of prebiotics. The concept is based on the phenomenon of colonial resistance, in which beneficial bacteria like Bidifobacteria and Lactobacilli control opportunist pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella, mainly through secretion of volatile fatty acids (VFA) and competition for nutrients and binding sites (Koopman et al., 1999). Prebiotics have to selectively stimulate the activity and/or growth of these beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract (Gibson et al., 1995). A lot of research in this area has focused on fructooligosaccharides (FOS). In one of these studies, Houdijk (1998) concluded that the FOS was fermented before it reached its intended destination, the colon, and therefore could not serve as a substrate for Bifidobacteria there. A slowly fermentable source of carbohydrates might accommodate a continuous flow of substrate for the beneficial bacteria throughout the ileum and the colon. The VFA production as a result of that fermentation capacity could help protect the animal against the pathogenic activity. In this study, FOS was used as a rapidly fermentable source of carbohydrates and sugar beet pulp as a slowly fermentable source. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of adding FOS and sugar beet pulp to weanling pig diets on performance, intestinal VFA patterns, intestinal microbial counts and the general health status of the pig. In addition, the study was to determine whether these ingredients stimulate fermentation in the intestinal tract and therefore help protect the animal from colonization of threatening strains of bacteria. If so, this could be an alternative to the use of feed grade antibiotics.