Pre-weaning adaptation responses in piglets fed milk replacer with gradually increasing amounts of wheat

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Hyperprolific sows rear more piglets than they have teats, and in order to accommodate this, milk replacers are often offered as a supplement. Milk replacers are based on bovine milk, yet components of vegetable origin are often added. This may reduce growth, but could also accelerate maturational changes. Therefore, we investigated the effect of feeding piglets a milk replacer with gradually increasing levels of wheat flour on growth, gut enzyme activity and immune function compared to a diet based entirely on bovine milk. The hypothesis tested was that adding a starch component (wheat flour) induces maturation of the mucosa as measured by higher digestive activity and improved integrity and immunity of the small intestines (SI). To test this hypothesis, piglets were removed from the sow at day 3 and fed either a pure milk replacer diet (MILK) or from day 11 a milk replacer diet with increasing levels of wheat (WHEAT). The WHEAT piglets had an increased enzyme activity of maltase and sucrase in the proximal part of the SI compared with the MILK group. There were no differences in gut morphology, histopathology and gene expression between the groups. In conclusion, the pigs given a milk replacer with added wheat displayed immunological and gut mucosal enzyme maturational changes, indicatory of adaptation toward a vegetable-based diet. This was not associated with any clinical complications and future studies are needed to show whether this could improve responses in the subsequent weaning process.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
ISSN0007-1145
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

    Research areas

  • Gut maturation, Intestinal health, Intestinal morphology, LPS challenge, Milk replacer

ID: 251193054