Nutrition of pigs kept under low and high sanitary conditions : effects on animo acid and energy metabolism and damaging behaviour

Meer, Yvonne van der


It is economically and environmentally important to match the nutrient supply to the nutrient requirements in pig production. Until now, the effects of different sanitary conditions on energy and nutrient requirements are not implemented in recommendations for nutrient composition of pig diets. The current nutrient requirement data are based on studies with pigs in experimental settings, which can be regarded as rather optimal. Changes in nutrient requirements caused by differences in sanitary conditions are poorly documented. As in the pig production sector farm conditions are variable it is of major importance to determine the effects of low sanitary conditions (LSC) on requirements for amino acids and energy in growing pigs. Pigs under LSC have an increased risk of clinical and subclinical infections, resulting in a chronic stimulation of their immune system. Immune system stimulation is known to influence energy and amino acid metabolism. However, most studies in pigs evaluating the relationship between immune system stimulation and nutrient requirements often use specific experimental challenge models. Whereas such models have the obvious advantage of reproducibility and allow mechanistic insight in the effects of stimulating specific parts of the immune system, these models often induce clinical illness, rather than subclinical infections. Results obtained with such models may therefore be difficult to translate to practical situations. Therefore the objective of the present thesis was to study the effect of low and high sanitary conditions (HSC) on amino acids and energy metabolism in pigs. Also interactions between the immune system, nutrient metabolism and damaging behaviour of pigs were considered in this thesis.

The experiment described in Chapter 2 was designed to study the effect of different dietary crude protein levels and extra amino acid supplementation on the growth performance of pigs kept under different sanitary conditions. In a 2×2×2 factorial arrangement, 68 groups of 9 pigs were allocated to either LSC or HSC, and were offered ad libitum access to two different diets, a normal crude protein concentration diet or a low crude protein concentration diet, each having either a basal dietary amino acid profile or supplemented dietary amino acid profile containing 20% more methionine, threonine, and tryptophan compared with the basal profile. The pigs were followed from 10 weeks of age until slaughter. Haptoglobin concentrations in serum and IgG antibody titers against keyhole limpet heamocyanin, collected in the starter, grower, and finisher phases, and pleuritis scores at slaughter were greater for LSC pigs compared with HSC pigs, illustrating that sanitary conditions affected health conditions. The average daily gain and gain to feed ratio were greater for HSC pigs compared with LSC pigs. A 20% increase in dietary supplementation of methionine, threonine, and tryptophan relative to lysine increased gain to feed ratio more in LSC than in HSC pigs. The results therefore illustrated that dietary requirements for methionine. threonine, and tryptophan were greater for LSC compared with HSC pigs.

In Chapter 3 the damaging behaviour of 576 pigs from the experiment in Chapter 2 was evaluated. At 15, 18, and 24 weeks of age, prevalence of tail and ear damage, and of tail and ear wounds was scored. At 20 and 23 weeks of age, frequencies of biting behaviour and aggression were scored by behaviour sampling. The prevalence of ear damage during the finisher phase and the frequency of ear biting were increased in LSC compared with HSC pigs. The frequency of ear biting was increased in low protein fed pigs compared with normal protein fed pigs. The supplemented AA profile reduced ear biting only in LSC pigs. The prevalence of tail wounds was lower for pigs in LSC than for pigs in HSC in the grower phase. Regardless of dietary amino acid profile or sanitary status, pigs fed low protein diets showed more ear biting, tail biting, belly nosing, other oral manipulation directed at pen mates, and aggression than pigs fed normal protein diets, with no effect on ear or tail damage. In conclusion, both LSC and a reduction of dietary protein increased the occurrence of damaging behaviours in pigs and therefore may negatively impact pig welfare.

The experiment of Chapter 4 was designed to quantify the difference in energy requirements for maintenance, and in incremental efficiencies for deposition of dietary energy and protein in the body of clinically healthy pigs kept under LSC or HSC, fed a basal diet either or not supplemented with additional methionine, threonine and tryptophan.

In a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement, 24 groups of 6 pigs each were allocated to either a LSC or HSC, and were offered two different diets having either a basal or a dietary amino acid profile supplemented with methionine, threonine, and tryptophan. For each group of pigs, complete energy and nitrogen balances were determined during two consecutive weeks, during which feed was available ad libitum or at 70% of ad libitum. Fasting heat production was determined over a 25 h period of fasting after a period of restricted feeding. Low sanitary conditions increased fasting heat production from 696 to 750 kJ/(kg BW0.6 . d), regardless of the dietary amino acid supplementation. The incremental efficiency of ingested nitrogen for retention in the body was reduced in LSC pigs from 73 to 53%, but incremental efficiencies of digestible energy intake for fat deposition in the body were unaffected by the experimental treatments. These findings showed that the effects of continuous immune stimulation by introducing LSC, was affecting energy and nutrient efficiencies of pigs both at maintenance level and at a feeding level close to ad libitum intake.

In Chapter 5 diurnal patterns for heat production, respiratory quotient, and carbohydrate and fat oxidation of the pigs studied in the experiment of Chapter 4 were evaluated to get more insight in the mechanisms behind the effects found in Chapter 4. The LSC pigs had reduced activity compared with HSC and a higher resting metabolic rate during the period of restricted feeding, especially during the light parts of the day. Therefore the diurnal energy expenditure pattern of LSC and HSC pigs can be considered as different. Fat and carbohydrate oxidation patterns were not different for LSC and HSC pigs, indicating that protein and fat deposition during the day was similar for LSC and HSC pigs.

Overall, the results of this thesis indicate that both energy and AA requirements are greater in LSC pigs compared with HSC pigs. It is questionable, however, whether it is nutrient and cost effective and biologically possible to satisfy these increased nutrient requirements in LSC pigs, as the incremental efficiency of N for retained protein is low, and ADFI is reduced for LSC pigs compared with HSC pigs. The present thesis demonstrates that care should be taken in reducing dietary protein concentrations to improve protein efficiency in pigs, as it incurs a risk to increased damaging behaviours, particularly when pigs are kept under LSC.