Stay at home and manage pig health remotely

Staying at home to work is the new norm in many countries right now. But how can you manage pig health and care for pigs, when you have to stay at home? The good news is there is a solution available that enables pork producers and swine veterinarians to recognize and respond to pig health issues remotely and in real-time.

Tune in to the second episode of the Keep Agile Keep Farming Podcast and listen to the chat with the founder and CEO of the company who developed this solution.

One important ability for pig producers to keep agile is being able to identify and respond to health issues quickly to save profits and pigs’ lives. Chris Bomgaars, who grew up pig farming in Iowa, is now the CEO of EveryPig, who developed a platform for pig producers and veterinarians, which enables them to share information in real time and work together as a team even on a remote basis.

“Pig farming in Iowa inspired me to find solutions for recognizing and responding to pig health issues faster” – Chris Bomgaars

With the help of the app pig producers can digitize daily pig records on their smart phones and upload them to the EveryPig telehealth platform within seconds, where others of their pig production team have immediate access to the data and can also comment on actions to take. On top of that it allows for images to be shared that veterinarians can then use to diagnose health problems without having to set foot onto the farm.

In times of African Swine Fever virus and a Corona virus pandemic this is a much welcomed tool in the pig industry, because there is one thing that these two health threats have in common: containment is a key measure to prevent the spread of the viruses. Plus preventing the spread of the viruses is crucial because there is no vaccine or treatment available for either of them to date.

The control and eradication of African Swine Fever in pig production still relies on rapid detection in the field followed by the application of strict sanitary measures. It also requires the containment of pigs to not allow contact with pigs from other farms and no contact between farm staff and external pigs.

Currently the Coronavirus Covid 19 enforces very similar measures on humans all over the world, making stay at home, self-isolation and working from home the new norm.

As a result there is now a growing need in both pig production and human health care for telemedicine. In other words we need to be able to care for pigs and humans remotely to help reduce the spread of the viruses. The EveryPig platform is enabling telehealth for pigs, where swine veterinarians can identify and respond to pig health issues remotely.

Imagine helping to save pigs’ and human lives from your home office and work more efficiently as a team. It is all possible now. Stay home, stay safe and most of all stay connected to kill two viruses with one stone.

Relevant links

Watch the trailer video to the Keep Agile Keep Farming Episode 2 here.

Relevant measures to prevent the Spread of African Swine Fever in the European Union Domestic Pig Sector

Women in agriculture – what they bring to the table

Most women in agriculture do not inherit farms. This means that for most female farmers out there, farming is a choice they make and they go all in. Even though the industry can obviously greatly benefit from this, in many cases it has gone largely unrecognized right up until quite recently.

by Gwendolyn Jones
Today is the day to recognize the contributions and achievements of women in agriculture, working as farmers, veterinarians, agronomists and many more different roles supporting the agricultural industry bringing food onto our tables. As mentioned at the end of this article, farming has been identified as a critical area to achieve gender equality, because it has been proven that it will help to significantly reduce the number of hungry people in the world.

I am a female marketer and free-lance journalist working in agriculture and have been studying the female farmer in the past few months. To me it was an incredibly eye-opening and inspiring journey reading and hearing amazing stories, which I now realize more and more people around the world are starting to wake up to. Of course if you are studying the female farmer, you will also learn a lot more about the male farmer, because in many cases they will work together as a great team. However, since it is international women’s month, for this article I am focusing on developments regarding the female farmer and what she quite literally brings to the table.

Female farmers are on the rise

Agricultural powerhouses such as the US and Brazil are seeing a rise in the number of women managing farms. In 2019 Brazil reported a record of 31% of farms were managed by women, which was 3x as much compared to figures in 2013, based on facts from the Brazil’s Agribusiness Association. In the United States the proportion of farms with women as principal operators grew from 14 percent of farms in 2012 to 29% in 2017.

This comes on the back of changes made to reporting in the 2017 US census of agriculture that better reflect who serves in principal roles on an operation, but the reported increase in female farmers is not just related to that. The USDA defines the principal producer as the person who runs the farm and makes the day-to-day management decisions. However not calling themselves the principal producer does not mean that women are not involved in the day-to-day decision making on farms.

The 2017 census in the US further revealed that 36% of the 3.4million US producers were women (an increase of 27% over the number counted in 2012) and 78 percent of all female producers, stated they were involved in the day-to-day decisions of the operation. With 59% of women being involved in decision making regarding crops, and 55% of women being involved in livestock decisions.

In the EU the proportion of women managing farms in the EU was 28% according to a report from last year and Eurostats data shows there has indeed been an increase in female farm managers in the EU in the past decade, albeit the increase is smaller compared to what is seen in Brazil and the United States. Austria is in the top 6 leading countries in the EU regarding the proportion of female farm managers in the country and reported 31%. Lithuania and Latvia have the highest proportion female farm managers with 45%.

The UK currently has its first female president of the National Farmer’s Union of England and Wales in its 110 years of history. According to the 2018-19 UK Office for National Statistics annual population survey the number of female farmers in the UK has now reached a figure of 17% as a proportion of all farmers in the UK and figures are showing that there are more female farm managers and owners than before. A recent survey carried out in women working and living on farms in Scotland revealed that over half of the respondents have a role in both day to day decision -making and major decisions on their farms.

In low income countries agriculture remains the most important employment sector for women, where 40% of women or more are working in agriculture. However in those countries women have significantly less ownership or control over farms compared to their male counter parts and compared to women in other parts of the world.

Passionate about the food they bring to the table

Thanks to farmers all around the world, we have food on our tables every day. The cultural practice of passing on large farms intact to one son, which still prevails in most countries, is the biggest barrier to women’s entry to farming and means most women in farming did not inherit farms. For example research in Iowa, which is the most important state for agriculture in the US, showed that the majority of farmland owned by women was purchased (69 percent) rather than inherited (27 percent). According to this research, the motivations for women were: farming was a personal aspiration, they had dreamed of farming for many years and wanted to be in control of their operations.

So what distinguishes many female farmers from male farmers is that farming is not something that was passed down to them for generations. For many female farmers it was a choice they made, something they had to earn before they could start making a difference. But they are living their dream. The result is an incredible amount of passion going into food production coming from women. Women being passionate not only about nourishing their own families in a healthy way, but also their communities and the world. They also actively share their passion on social media. The 2019 US Women in Ag survey showed that 95% of women out of the 3000 respondents from the US frequently advocate for the agricultural industry and similar trends can be seen in other countries.

Women in agriculture thrive on 3 big C’s

What women in agriculture seem to have in common throughout different countries is an enormous willingness not only to communicate, but also to connect and collaborate. They connect on social media, women conferences and networks to offer each other emotional support, share information and experiences.

Last year I was at such an event myself for the first time. I found the Women in Food and Agriculture event (#WFA19), bringing women in agriculture from different parts of the world together very inspiring and empowering. It certainly created a feeling of togetherness and to tackle today’s and tomorrow’s challenges for agriculture you cannot have enough collaboration in my opinion. In women’s agricultural networks women are also redefining and expanding the definition of what it means to be a farmer.

A fresh perspective can make a big difference in farming

As women in agriculture often do not have a farming background they can bring a fresh perspective. Women marrying into farming can bring useful off-farm skills to farming, which can help to diversify the business or enhance the financial resilience of it. Due to prevailing social customs and traditional stereotypes the majority of women do not inherit farms, which means they are much less likely to fall into the trap of the attitude “why change, it’s always been that way” and as a result are more likely to be open to try out new things when they work on farms. Consequently women can also be catalysts for change.

Female farmers have a drive to diversify farms

Reports both in the US and in the UK reveal that farm diversification is a very female-led domain. Research suggests that women in US agriculture are more likely to be found in farm operations that add value to agriculture. Value-added agriculture is generally referred to as the process of differentiating the raw agriculture product or commodity, it can also be related to farm tourism.

Level of education

To be able to succeed in agriculture you need to be smart. It is therefore not surprising that according to the latest US census of agriculture 69% of the surveyed young farmers had college degrees – which is significantly higher than the proportion in the general US population.

A study conducted by the Food and Agricultural Education Information System in the US showed that undergraduate women enrolled in agriculture programs outnumbered undergraduate men by 2900 students in 2011. In 2017 Texas A&M University – College Station, the University with the most students in agriculture and most courses on offer in agriculture in the US had a higher number of female graduates than male graduates (693 female degrees vs 507 male degrees)

In the UK, there are now more female students in agriculture and related higher education courses than male students. In 2018, 64% of the students in this field were female according to the UK Education Statistics Agency.

In Brazil Universities such as the Federal University of Paraná in Curitiba 47% of the students that started the agronomical engineering undergraduate program in 2020 are female, which is a large increase compared to the proportion of female students for this subject a decade ago.

So the trend in some of the leading agricultural economies is for more and more women to complete agricultural degrees, meaning women coming to work in agriculture in those countries are often highly educated in agriculture related subjects.

They don’t just become part of farming, but are also infiltrating the companies serving farmers, for example to supply veterinary services, animal nutrition and crop consulting to farms. Others go to work in research contributing to progress the science in agriculture to find new solutions for more sustainable farming practices.

The future for women in agriculture

As agriculture is evolving and becoming less dependent on heavy labour the potential contribution women can make to agriculture is increasing and so are the opportunities for them. At the same time leading companies in the US agriculture sector are starting to announce, their initiatives to encourage and support female leadership roles in their ranks, which was previously unheard of. There are still many barriers to women in agriculture, however the good news is there are indications for a shift towards a more inclusive future in agriculture in important markets for agriculture, which will hopefully also spread to other countries around the world.


The theme of this year’s international women’s day is “Each for Equal” to help promote a gender equal world for a more enabled world. There is still a long way to go to ZERO hunger in the world. Today there are something like 800 million people going hungry plus the world population is growing rapidly and an extra 2 billion people are expected to be part of the global population by 2050.

Fact is that if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced considerably and we would be one step closer to global food security.

So for more progressive agriculture, which is able to meet challenges for global food security, it is important to recognize women’s achievements in agriculture and increase the visibility of the female farmer to counter gender bias and stereotypes, which are harming both women and men.

Relevant articles

Behind every healthy animal is a strong farmer
Sustainable development goals – Goal 2: Zero Hunger 
International Women’s Day 2020 campaign theme is #EachforEqual

Early laying period- off to a good start in laying hens

The early laying period plays an important role in how a flock will perform and how long laying hens can be kept in production. So, getting hens off to a good start in lay is key to feeding strategies aimed at extending laying cycles. Feeding for adaptive capacity can be a great facilitator to give your laying hens a head-start in the pre-peak phase.

500 eggs in one laying cycle is within reach

Prolonging the laying cycle balances the costs of egg production (e.g. price of pullets and feed) by the earnings of a longer productive period. On top of that it reduces the frequency required to replace hens and to clean houses. As a result of that producers are now aiming to extend the laying period beyond 72 weeks of age. But it is not just to improve the economics of production, it also makes sense in terms of reducing the environmental impact of egg production for more sustainable egg production. Some breeding companies are already reporting flocks with egg production cycles of 100 weeks producing more than 500 eggs. Schothorst Feed Research reported that a flock of Dekalb White hens produced 510 eggs per hen in 100 weeks in October last year. While improved genetics facilitate such ambitious goals, it goes without saying that the right management and nutrition play an important supporting role in this too.

Importance of pre-peak challenges for extended laying periods

The pre-peak period of the laying cycle lasts from the time when hens arrive at the production house (15-18 weeks of age) until the age the laying hens reach peak egg production (24-26 weeks of age). This is a very challenging period for the hens, because they are still growing while they are starting to produce eggs. On top of that the hens are going through many other changes as they transition from rearing pullet to production. This means that they have to adapt to new environments, diets, different lighting as well as having to go through the stresses of transportation. This can result in negative nutrient balances, which can affect performance but can also have longer-term effects for health and laying persistency if it negatively affects bone and liver metabolism. For example mobilization of calcium for eggshell formation from bone can lead to a reduction in skeletal mass of the hen and will reduce shell quality late in late lay. Increasing free radical production in the liver can eventually lead to fatty liver as a result of prolonged oxidative stress, which again can impair egg production and laying persistence. Missed targets in the rearing phase such as target body weight and high uniformity or stressors such as high temperatures and mycotoxins can amplify potential problems.

Feeding for adaptive capacity of hens in the early laying period

To get the laying hens off to a good start at the beginning of the laying period and to correct the effects of suboptimal rearing, nutrient intake should be maximised to prevent the mobilisation of body nutrient reserves at the start of the lay period. This also means that any impact environmental or nutritional stress factors may have on feed intake needs to be minimized. Stress reactions such as oxidative stress, reduced gut integrity and inflammatory responses can all contribute to negatively impact the resilience of the laying hen and can thus further diminish the chances for producers to successfully extend the laying period. For example high gut integrity in the duodenum is crucial to maintaining egg shell quality in longer laying cycles as it is the main site for absorption of Ca and P. Oxidative stress will affect the functioning of the liver and hence the ability to maintain high egg laying rates and egg quality over time. It can also lead to inflammatory responses which can affect energy efficiency of the laying hen.

The gut agility concept in Anco FIT Poultry was specifically developed to increase the capacity of the bird to adapt to challenges more efficiently and to reduces stress reactions that would otherwise reduce the hens performance and potential to sustain longer laying cycles.

Sign up to our newsletter and find out more about experiences with Anco FIT Poultry in diets of laying hens in future articles.

Schothorst Feed Research achieves 510,7 eggs

500 eggs in 100 weeks

Priming the poultry gut to deal with stressors

Research sheds light on how nutritional interventions can modulate gene expression of a key pathway in the poultry gut to increase the bird’s capacity to cope with stressors.

Stress-related decreases in productive and reproductive performance of poultry cause substantial economic losses. In poultry the gut is highly responsive to stressors from the feed and the environment. Under commercial conditions, birds are exposed to a variety of nutritional and environmental stressors. This will lead to stress reactions such as oxidative stress, inflammatory responses and reduced gut integrity on the cellular and gut level, which will increase maintenance energy requirements.

On top of that stressors may negatively affect feed intake, such that altogether performance and efficiency in birds can drop significantly. In laying hens oxidative stress can also accelerate the aging process of the ovaries and impair liver function, which can affect laying persistence and egg quality at the later stages of the laying cycle.

Methods developed to improve the measurement of the underlying mechanisms via molecular markers can lead to a better understanding of how the reactions can be manipulated to reduce the impact on bird performance.

Improving the adaptive ability of birds

By improving the adaptive ability of animals to stressors it is possible to substantially decrease negative consequences of various stresses in poultry production. Researchers consider changes in gene expression to be of great importance for adaptation to stressors, and hence key to the development of techniques for managing stress reactions in the animal. Certain molecular pathways responsible for the transcription of genes for enzymes involved in the protection from the effects of stressors on the cellular level play a vital role in the adaptive ability of birds. A better understanding of these pathways and the development of ways to track and measure changes in their key indicators is paving the way to support them by nutritional means for greater resilience in birds. Certain bioactive components derived from plants are promising candidates for nutritional solutions, because they also play key roles in similar pathways in plants to enhance the plant’s ability to cope with stressors threatening its survival.

Underlying mechanisms to adaptive capacity

Oxidative stress is one of the most common stress reactions on the cellular level in the animal. It is characterized by excess production of free radicals (ROS), which exceeds the ability of the bird’s antioxidant defence system to neutralise them.

In recent years great attention has been paid to the transcription factor Nrf2 and scientific data indicate that Nrf2 activation is one of the most important mechanism to prevent/decrease stress-related detrimental changes. Nrf2 is a transcription factor that responds to oxidative stress by binding to the antioxidant response element (ARE), which initiates the transcription of antioxidant enzymes.

These enzymes contribute to the improvement of the bird’s antioxidant defence system and reduce oxidative stress on the cellular level. They are also known to block Nf-kB resulting in protection against inflammation. However, when stress is too high, leading to a free radical concentration higher than the threshold for cells, other transcription factors including NF-kB become predominant, which increases inflammation. Research suggests, that the threshold could be increased by nutritional means making the pathway more robust under stress and reducing oxidative stress and inflammatory responses.

Recent evaluation of nutritional intervention

Research in broilers carried out by the Agricultural University of Athens, evaluated a gut agility activator as a new nutritional intervention to improve the adaptive capacity of birds for greater resilience to stressors. It contains a combination of bioactive substances derived from herbs and spices designed to reduce the negative impact of stressors on bird performance.

In this trial analyzing tissue samples from different segments of the bird’s gut was done to study the relative expression of genes related to antioxidative enzymes and inflammation. It was discovered that adding the gut agility activator to the diet up-regulated gene expression of antioxidative enzymes belonging to the NrF2/ARE pathway and down-regulated NF-kB1 expression. Additional analysis carried out in the same study demonstrated that this coincided with increased levels of total antioxidant capacity in the gut. However, the positive effect of the gut agility activator was dependent on the inclusion level and segment of the gut.

Commercial implications

New and powerful analytical methods are catalysing the progress in our understanding of the mechanics of action of certain feed additives. The current research findings suggest, that it is possible to boost the bird’s capacity to adapt efficiently to stressors, by adding a gut agility activator to the feed. In combination with performance data from commercial trials in the presence of stressors (such as heat, high production level and mycotoxins), there is evidence that the gut agility activator offers a solution to help reduce the impact of stressors on performance under commercial conditions.

Producers looking for a more consistent performance in response to their feeding programs or to sustain longer production cycles e.g. in the laying hen by natural means could benefit economically from this. However, this research alongside previous research also demonstrates the importance of testing and optimizing inclusion levels of active substances derived from herbs and spices, for them to be part of commercially viable solutions in cost-effective diets.

by Gwendolyn Jones, published in Poultry World, 2019

Related articles on poultry gut

Scientific abstract presented at the gut health symposium 2019

Webinar: Poultry Health and Nutrition 

Animal Production Science – Anco FIT Poultry mode of action proof

The Animal Production Science journal published a scientific paper with research involving the application of Anco FIT Poultry in broilers and its effects on the cellular level, gene expression and digestibility.

Link to full scientific paper published in Animal Production Science


Effects of phytogenic inclusion level on broiler carcass yield, meat antioxidant capacity, availability of dietary energy, and expression of intestinal genes relevant for nutrient absorptive and cell growth–protein synthesis metabolic functions



Phytogenic applications in animal nutrition currently attract worldwide scientific attention for their potential to contribute positively to sustainable and high-quality animal production. However, further understanding and substantiation of dietary phytogenic functions is required.


The inclusion level of a phytogenic premix (PP) comprising functional flavouring substances from ginger, lemon balm, oregano and thyme was studied for its effects on broiler growth performance, carcass traits, nutrient digestibility, liver and meat total antioxidant capacity (TAC), and lipid oxidation. The expression of genes for nutrient transporter proteins (SGLT1, GLUT2, PEPT1, BOAT and LAT1), for FABP2 involved in cellular fatty acid uptake and metabolism, and for the mTORC1 complex relevant for protein synthesis were profiled along the intestine.


One-day-old Cobb broiler chickens (n = 500) were assigned to four treatments with five replicates of 25 chickens each. Starter (1–10 days), grower (11–22 days) and finisher (23–42 days) basal diets were supplemented with four levels of PP inclusion as treatments: 0, 750, 1000 and 2000 mg/kg diet, termed control, PP750, PP1000 and PP2000. Feed and water were available ad libitum. Data were analysed by ANOVA, taking the treatment as fixed effect. Statistically significant (P ≤ 0.05) effects were further analysed and means were compared using Tukey’s HSD test. Polynomial contrasts tested the linear and quadratic effect of PP inclusion levels.

Key results

Growth performance responses were not improved significantly (P > 0.05) by PP inclusion level. However, carcass (P = 0.030) and breast meat yield (P = 0.023) were higher in PP1000 than in the control. In addition, PP1000 had higher (P = 0.049) apparent metabolisable energy than PP2000 and the control. Increasing PP inclusion level increased breast (P = 0.005), thigh (P = 0.002) and liver (P = 0.040) TAC. Breast and thigh meat TAC reached a plateau at PP1000, whereas liver TAC continued to increase linearly. Lipid oxidation in breast meat and liver was delayed linearly (P ≤ 0.05) with increasing PP inclusion level. Expression of genes SGLT1, GLUT2, PEPT1, BOAT and FABP2 were not affected by PP inclusion. However, PP inclusion affected the expression of LAT1 (P < 0.001) in jejunum and of mTORC1 in duodenum (P = 0.010) and ceca (P = 0.025). In particular, expression increased with increasing PP inclusion level in a linear and quadratic pattern depending on the intestinal segment.


Overall, PP inclusion at 1000 mg/kg diet improved carcass and breast yield, dietary available energy, and overall meat and liver TAC. Preliminary evidence was highlighted for effects of PP in promoting expression of genes relevant for muscle protein synthesis.


This study has contributed new information on effects of a phytogenic premix on broiler meat yield and antioxidant capacity, digestibility, absorption and metabolic functions, further supporting phytogenic benefits for broiler production.

Related articles

Experience with Anco FIT Poultry is growing globally

Webinar: Poultry Health and Nutrition

2020s challenges – opinions from the poultry industry

We are on the cusp of a new decade and we were interested to hear what others thought would be the major challenges for animal production in the 2020s. Feeding for adaptive capacity could be one way to support resilience in birds that is needed to cope with some of these challenges.

Agriculture is a highly volatile industry in itself and on top of that is facing sweeping changes in climate, demographics, technology, regulations and business environment like any other industry of this era. Everything is already moving at a rapid pace and things are likely to only get faster over the coming new decade. One of the big questions for the 2020s certainly will be how poultry producers can keep up and adapt to the rapid pace of change in all those areas.

Here are some of the thoughts on 2020s challenges for the poultry industry in respective countries from delegates at a recent international animal production conference in Vienna:

“Meeting the demand for antibiotic-free production, which is driven by consumer demand, not legal action” Animal Feed Producer, USA

“It is important to find ways to deal with the increasing complexity in poultry production systems and to gain a better understanding of resilience.”, Antibiotic-free egg and broiler producer, Brazil

“Reducing the amount of manure production and use of coccidiostats”, Nutritionist, Poland

Listen to more thoughts on this from peers in the first Episode of the Keep Agile Keep Farming Podcast.

Current challenges expected to increase in the 2020s

  • At this year’s IPPE conference in Atlanta some of the discussions highlighted the lack of qualified labour in poultry production. Coupled with the fact that it is an aging industry and many will retire within the next decade, labour shortages could become an even bigger problem over the next decade.
  • More and more egg producers are facing the challenge to facilitate longer laying periods in laying hens to become more economical and meet environmental standards.
  • Predictions for further increases in temperatures in many parts of the world due to climate change, are calling for effective ways to reduce the impact of heat stress on birds or breed for climate resilient birds to maintain production efficiency and reduce mortality in birds.

Nutritional management strategy: Feeding for adaptive capacity

Novel feeding strategies designed to support the adaptability of birds to cope with stressors naturally could be a way of supporting resilience in broilers and laying hens.

Improved resilience means, that the impact of stressors, such as heat, change of diets, flocking density on animal performance and wellbeing will be lower. This will also mean reduced fluctuations in performance and that animals are generally easier to manage.

On the one hand this could reduce the requirement of labour input and on the other hand also facilitate the reduction in use of antibiotic growth promotors.

On the cellular level the animal’s exposure to stressors will increase the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can lead to oxidative stress. It can also lead to an increase in inflammatory responses all of which will come at a price of reduced energy available for growth or egg production. It can also cause damage and increased susceptibility to disease and metabolic disorders in vital organs for production, such as the liver, gut and ovaries.

Thus, finding ways to reduce those stress reactions in birds by nutritional means could help to enable longer profitable production cycles in laying hens. Many egg producers are currently aiming to increase laying periods in laying hens not only for economic reasons but also to fulfill environmental standards. An increase of 10 weeks in egg production could mean that 1g of nitrogen could be saved per dozen eggs. This can significantly reduce the nitrification impact of egg farms, which is especially important in nitrate sensitive areas. On top of that longer laying cycles lead to a lower carbon footprint per egg.

Nutritional solution – gut agility activator

Anco Animal Nutrition Competence developed the first gut agility activator on the market for poultry production. The botanical adaption formula in Anco FIT Poultry was specifically developed to support the bird’s adaptive capacity to stressors. The product has been proven to improve the resilience of broilers in the face of stressors such as heat and mycotoxins and improve laying persistency in layers in the late laying period under commercial conditions.

Related articles

Experience with Anco FIT Poultry and mode of action

How to advance your birds from doing great to agile 

Animal resilience – harnessing the power of plant resilience

US Poultry Industry challenged by labor issues

Vandana, G.D. and Sejian, V. (2018). Towards identifying climate resilient poultry birds. Journal of Dairy, Veterinary & Animal Research


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


Behind every healthy animal is a strong farmer

Every day a farmer works hard to produce the food we eat. Nevertheless, many take healthy food for granted and are completely out of touch with what it takes to produce it, yet alone show appreciation for the work of famers.

Like, Dwight D. Eisenhower, former president of the United States, once said in the 1950s: ”Farming looks easy when your plow is a pencil and you are a thousand miles from a corn field.”

Fast forward to today and the people that are complaining about farming the loudest and demanding the most are often the ones furthest away from the reality of the fields.

Thankfully the cities do not only produce moaners, when it comes to farming. There are also brave “city people” trading in their city lives for farming as first generation farmers, even becoming big advocates for farming. Such as the female farmers known as Red Shepherdess, Yorkshire Shepherdess and Farm Babe to name a few. They have some amazing stories to share about farming and do a great job of letting people in on their stories on social media.

Some even create a whole film on it, such as Molly and John Chester in California with “The biggest little farm”, which was released in cinemas this year. Jeremy Clarkson, townie and famous for his car series, bought a farm with no knowledge in agriculture and is about to launch a series on his experience of running a farm on Amazon Prime Video.

However, there are also many multi generation farmers that have grown up on a farm, who are involved in bridging the gap between towns and countryside on social media. Some also winning awards for their initiatives, such as Simone Kaine and Ben Hood from South Australia. Their educational project “George the Farmer” aims to give both rural and city-based children a better understanding and connection to where their food comes from.

None of them beats around the bush, while they agree that farming can be a very rewarding and meaningful way of life, they also admit it is anything but easy. As Jeremy Clarkson discovers: “Of course to be a farmer you have to be an agronomist, a businessman, a politician, an accountant and a mechanic.”

To be a successful farmer you need to be smart: It is therefore not surprising that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Census of Agriculture. Sixty-nine percent of the surveyed young farmers had college degrees — significantly higher than the general population.

Livestock farming today is expected to produce more food than ever before, at high welfare standards, from fewer resources and with the smallest possible impact on our environment. Healthy animals not only produce healthy food, they are also more efficient, reducing both cost of production and environmental impact. So, it is safe to say that behind every healthy animal is a strong farmer dedicated to produce healthy food. They deserve our support and admiration, after all they are the cornerstone to our food security and biggest contributors to our landscape.

And let us not forget, sustainable agriculture not only means the responsible use of the world’s finite resources and social acceptability, it also encompasses economic viability for the continuation of a thriving farming industry.

Today is national farmers day. Thank a farmer today and every day for healthy food on the table.

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Impact of the mycotoxin DON in laying hens

Studies have shown a negative impact of deoxynivalenol, DON in laying hens, however results vary considerably between studies. Many scientific papers state that chickens are less sensitive to mycotoxins compared to other species.

So, should egg producers worry about DON in feed? The answer is, it depends. Here are some of the factors that need to be considered to assess the risk of DON in feed to the performance of laying hens and egg safety.

Factors determining the impact of DON in laying hens

Effects of DON on performance in laying hens varies considerably between studies. Whereas some studies report very little impact, other studies showed a significant impact of DON on laying rate/egg production, egg shell quality and weight gains in laying hens.

There are some factors that can explain the variance seen in results between studies examining the effect of DON on laying hens. Depending on the level of presence of these factors in the studies, the effect of DON on laying hen performance can be significant.

• Level of DON in feed and co-contamination with other mycotoxins
• Natural versus purified form of DON
• Length of exposure to DON in feed
• Stage of egg production
• Type of breed

Differences in toxic effects may be because some studies used artificially contaminated grain or a single source of contaminated grain. Artificially contaminated diets with purified DON are less toxic than naturally contaminated diets. This is mainly because the use of a blend of naturally contaminated grains increases the potential for other mycotoxins being present. Having multiple mycotoxins present can increase the effect of DON present as a result of toxicological synergies arising from interactions with the other mycotoxins. Egg production was negatively affected in hens fed a diet containing sorghum that was contaminated with zearalenone (ZON) at a level of 1.1 mg/kg and DON at a level of 0.3 mg/kg. The effect in this study was thought to be due to the synergistic effect of DON and ZON.

Longer periods of exposure to DON in the diet generally showed a greater impact on the performance of laying hens compared to studies where the hens were only exposed to DON for a few weeks. Another study comparing the effect of DON on laying hens between stages of production showed that DON had more of an effect in months 7-12, than in the first 6 months of production.

What is also of interest to note is that not all breeds of laying hens respond the same to DON. For example, a study comparing Lohmann Brown laying hens with LSL Lohmann laying hens demonstrated that Lohmann Brown laying hens are more sensitive to DON.

Underlying mechanisms for negative responses

Chickens are less sensitive compared to other species. This can be attributed to differences in DON absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination. Nevertheless, there are still studies that have shown negative effects on laying hen performance. This has been attributed to some extent to a reduction in feed intake in association with DON in diets. Other studies have indicated that DON has an influence on intestinal morphology of chickens and nutrient absorption (glucose and amino acids), which can reduce nutrient efficiency of laying hens. For example, it was shown that DON can alter the structure of the duodenal and jejunal mucosa in the form of shorter and thinner villi.

Disease susceptibility in response to DON in feed

DON has been shown to impair immunological functions in chickens. The impact of DON on the immune system ranges from immunosuppression to immunostimulation, according to its concentration, duration and time of exposure.

An important immunotoxic effect of DON in diets for laying hens is the reduction of white
blood cell and total lymphocyte numbers. On top of that low doses of DON upregulate the expression of inflammation related genes and proinflammatory cytokines.

DON is shown to suppress the antibody response to infectious bronchitis vaccine (IBV) and to Newcastle disease virus (NDV) in laying hens (3.5 to 14 mg of DON/kg feed), respectively.

The dysregulation of the immune system together with the negative impact of DON on gut function can lead to increasing the susceptibility of poultry flocks to infectious diseases.

Does DON in feed pose risks for egg safety and human health?

DON can cause health problems such as nausea, gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea in humans. Therefore, it is important to ensure that it is not transmitted from chicken feed into eggs at a rate that can cause health risks for humans.

A 2018 study from China looking at mycotoxin levels in eggs in three different areas in China (Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai) reported DON, 15-AcDON, and Zearelone as the most frequently observed mycotoxins in eggs. The highest levels of contamination were noted in Shanghai with up to 50% testing positive. Subsequent risk assessment for humans concluded that the risk of causing problems to humans in all three areas was low based on the levels of mycotoxins that were found in eggs and normal egg consumption. The DON intake through eggs was still below the provisional maximum tolerable daily intake. However, the study did highlight the need to monitor DON in feed and to restrict permitted levels of DON in feed.

Scientific studies looking at the carry-over effect of DON from feed to eggs in laying hens concluded that the carry-over effect of DON into eggs is very low. Such that providing that the DON level of chicken feed does not exceed current guidelines (5ppm) there is certainly no health risk to humans.

A very recent study carried out in 2019 demonstrated that DON occurs mainly as its non-toxic metabolite DON-3Ss in eggs from laying hen fed DON contaminated feed.

Video:  How does the mycotoxin DON affect the performance of laying hens?

Please see second half of this video.

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