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Healthy fibre

The fibre content of cereals not only contributes energy, protein and fat, it also has a positive effect on animal health.

Fibre is good for pigs. This is the conclusion of research carried out at the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences in collaboration with Danish Pig Production.

- The composition of carbohydrates has a major effect on its feed value for pigs, explains head of research unit Knud Erik Bach Knudsen from the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences.

- The fibres and structure of the feed are the most important factors in this connection. They affect the gastro-intestinal environment which increases resistance to the establishment of bacteria such as Salmonella, he says.

Cereal is the most important source of energy for pigs in Denmark and most other industrialised countries. Cereals contribute protein, fat, starch and fibres. But they do even more than that.

- Cereal does not only contribute nutrients, but has in recent years also been shown to be important for maintaining a healthy gastro-intestinal flora. Cereals are vitally important for animal health, for example for the prevention of ulcers and for the ability of the pigs to fight the establishment of zoonotic bacteria, to which Salmonella belongs, explains Knud Erik Bach Knudsen. Zoonosis is a term for an infectious disease that can be passed on from animals to humans and vice versa.

Just as the level of starch and fibre is a measure of the energy content of the cereal and the level of essential amino acids is a measure of the protein content, so the composition of the fibres and their physico-chemical characteristics are an indication of the functional properties of cereal in the gastro-intestinal tract.

Fibre against ulcers

Post-mortem examinations of more than 4000 finishing pigs have shown that approximately one third of them suffered some extent of change to their stomachs. In six percent of the cases they suffered from actual ulcers. Intensive rearing conditions where pigs are given pelleted feed and where no straw bedding is provided generally have a negative effect on gut health.

It would appear from various investigations that barley generally has a better effect on gut health than wheat. This is due the high fibre content of barley. Digested barley has some positive traits that help protect the lining of the stomach against the acidic environment. The same traits can be obtained for wheat if it is coarsely ground.

In addition to the positive effects of a coarse structure, investigations also indicate that the choice of cereal and feed structure prevent the incidence of Salmonella infections. Experiments with Salmonella-positive pigs have shown that a combination of a coarse feed structure and the omission of pelleted feed has a positive effect on the incidence of Salmonella.

Changes to the physico-chemical properties of the gastro-intestinal contents have a positive effect on the microbial ecosystem, which hinders the establishment of the Salmonella bacteria. The negative side of a coarse feed is, however, that it leads to an increased feed intake.

For further information please contact:
Head of research unit Knud Erik Bach Knudsen, Department of Animal Health, Welfare and Nutrition, telephone: +45 8999 1143, e-mail: [email protected]

Wednesday 20 December 2006 | Communication Unit