Feeding sows and piglets for piglet resilience to weaning stress

How piglets cope with weaning stress has a significant impact on their subsequent performance. A commercial sow trial supervised by the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil evaluated piglet pre-and post-weaning performance in response to a feeding regime involving the gut agility activator Anco FIT.

Stressors at weaning

During the weaning process the pig is subjected to a number of different stressors: Abrupt separation from the sow, transportation and handling stress, change in diet, social hierarchy stress, co-mingling with pigs from other litters, change in environment, increased exposure to pathogens, and dietary or environmental antigens.

What matters is how the piglet adapts to the weaning stress

The piglet must adapt to the above stressors rapidly in order to be productive, healthy and efficient. On the cellular and gut level, the stressors at weaning will cause stress reactions, such as oxidative stress, reduced gut integrity, reduced feed intake and inflammatory responses. The extent of these reactions will determine the impact of weaning stress on subsequent health and performance of the piglet. This means that managing the piglet to reduce the stress reactions, will lead to a more resilient pig, i.e. lower fluctuations in performance and better health.

Nutritional solution for greater resilience

A gut agility activator is a feed solution designed to help the animal to adapt to stressors more efficiently by nutritional means. Part of its formula is a combination of bioactive compounds derived from herbs and spices known to reduce common stress reactions, such as antioxidative stress and reduced gut integrity.

Feeding the gut agility activator to highly prolific sows during lactation is expected to improve energy available for milk production due to reducing the extent of stress reactions in sows. As a result pre-weaning piglet growth is better, which again helps the piglets to be stronger at weaning.

In the post weaning diet for piglets, the gut agility activator is expected to help reduce the stress reactions in response to weaning stressors on the cellular and gut level in piglets. This should then increase the energy available for growth, since the stress reactions would normally increase maintenance energy and make piglets more susceptible to disease.

Evaluation of a gut agility activator on a sow farm in Brazil

The animal science department of the University of Sao Paulo evaluated the gut agility activator Anco FIT in a feeding program designed to improve adaptation to weaning in piglets in a commercial sow farm.

Experimental design

100 sows (PICxCamborough) were split into two groups 14 days pre-farrowing. One group was fed a control corn-soy diet and the other group was fed the control diet including 1kg/t of Anco FIT until the end of lactation. Average litter size per sow after fostering was 14 piglets. Piglets were weighed after fostering at birth and at weaning (26.5 days). Piglets stayed within groups post weaning. Piglets from sows fed Anco FIT received Anco FIT in their diets post weaning. Both groups of piglets were weighed at day 22 and day 33 post-weaning.


Piglets from sows fed Anco FIT in their diets tended to have higher weaning weights despite being on average 1 day younger at weaning than piglets from control sows. In the post-weaning phase Anco FIT piglets grew significantly faster than control pigs and had significantly higher weights at day 22 and day 33 post weaning (+9.2% and +9.3% respectively). Apart from the fact that piglets tended to have higher weaning weights, this was mainly due to a significantly increased feed conversion ratio in Anco FIT piglets post-weaning.


A feeding strategy comprising the application of the gut agility activator Anco FIT to sows diets in lactation, followed by adding Anco FIT to piglet diets post weaning improved overall piglet performance from birth to day33 post weaning compared to the control feeding regime on a commercial sow farm. The improved FCR seen in Anco FIT piglets in the post weaning period might be explained by Anco FIT helping to reduce stress reactions on the cellular and gut level and thus saving energy for growth.

Related articles

Anco FIT – Managing cost- effectiveness of pig diets
The biological stress of early weaned piglets. Journal of Animal Science, 2013  

Scientific abstract presented at the gut health symposium 2019

Profiling phytogenic inclusion level effects on the intestinal antioxidant capacity and the expression of protective genes against oxidation, stress and inflammation in broilers

The effects of a phytogenic premix (PP) inclusion level on an array of genes relevant for host protection against oxidation (CAT, SOD1, GPX2, HMOX1, NQO1, Nrf2 and Keap1), stress (HSP70 and HSP90) and inflammation (NF-κB1, TLR2 and TLR4) were evaluated along the broiler intestine in combination with determination of total antioxidant capacity (TAC).

The proprietary PP “gut agility activator” used comprised of functional flavoring substances of ginger, lemon balm, oregano and thyme. One-day-old Cobb broiler chickens (n=500) were assigned into the following four treatments, depending on PP inclusion level in the basal diets (i.e. 0, 750, 1000 and 2000 mg/kg diet): CON, PP750, PP1000 and PP2000. Each treatment had five replicates of 25 chickens with ad libitum access to feed and water. Data were analyzed by ANOVA and means compared using Tukey HSD test. Polynomial contrasts tested the linear and quadratic effect of PP inclusion levels.

Overall, except for CAT, the inclusion of PP up-regulated (P≤0.05) the nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2) / antioxidant response element (ARE) pathway genes (SOD1, GPX2, HMOX1, NQO1, Nrf2 and Keap1) evaluated. In particular, the majority of these genes were up-regulated primarily in the duodenum and the ceca and secondarily in the jejunum. Moreover, genes were mostly up-regulated in a quadratic manner with increasing PP inclusion level with the highest expression levels shown in treatments PP750 and PP1000 compared to CON. Similarly, intestinal TAC was higher in PP1000 in the duodenum (P = 0.011) and the ceca (P = 0.050) compared to CON. From the genes relevant for inflammation and stress assessed, NF-κB1, TLR4 and HSP70 were down-regulated with increasing PP level, the first one according to a quadratic pattern and the latter two linearly.

As a conclusion, PP primed the expression of cytoprotective genes and down-regulated stress and inflammation related ones, the effect being dependent on PP inclusion level and the intestinal site. Further investigation under stress-challenge conditions is warranted.

by Konstantinos C. Mountzouris, Vasileios V. Paraskeuas and Konstantinos Fegeros

presented at: Symposium on Gut Health in Production of Food Animals, St. Louis, USA 4-6th November 2019

Other scientific abstracts published in 2019

Scientific abstract published in ESPN 2019 proceedings