Phytobiotics are plant-derived natural bioactive compounds that promote livestock health and well-being and improve production efficiency. The beneficial effects of phytobiotics may be explained by the activation of feed intake, the secretion of digestive enzymes, immune stimulation, intestinal microflora modulation, anti-bacterial effects and anti-inflammatory properties. This study investigated the effects of a novel plant extract (PE) product that was added to the drinking water on the performance and gut health in weaned piglets challenged with Escherichia coli. The PE was a standardised mixture of green tea leaves (Camellia sinensis) and pomegranate fruit (Punica granatum). A total of 144 piglets weaned at 24 days were used in the trial. Piglets were raised for 35 days in eight different groups with a 2×2×2 factorial design comparing different treatments (water without product (CT) or 8 μl/kg per day PE in the drinking water (PE)), feeding regimens (AD or restricted (RE)) and oral E. coli challenges on day 9 (sham (−) or infected (+)). Six pens per group with three piglets per pen were used. On day 35, a total of 24 piglets of the RE feeding were slaughtered.
The results showed higher average daily gain (ADG) for the PE group from day 28 to day 35 (P =0.03) and increased the gain to feed ratio (G : F) from day 7 to day 14 (P = 0.02). RE feeding led to lower feed intake in piglets during the 1st week (P<0.01), 2nd week (P = 0.06), 3rd week (P = 0.05), and throughout the course of the overall study period (P = 0.05). E. coli challenge decreased the ADG and G:F ratio from day 7 to day 14 (P = 0.08 and <0.01, respectively) and increased the faecal score on days 14, 21, 28 and 35 (P<0.01). PE supplementation decreased the faecal score in the challenged piglets during the 1st week post-challenge (P<0.01). Reduced faecal E. coli was observed on days 14 and 35 (P = 0.05 and 0.02, respectively), and reduced Enterobacteriaceae (P<0.01) was found on day 35 in the PE animals. RE feeding increased the faecal Lactobacillus, Enterobacteriaceae and E. coli levels on day 35 (P = 0.02, <0.01 and <0.01; respectively).
In conclusion, the use of a PE product improved gut health and microbial ecology in weanling piglets, thus reducing the severity of an E. coli challenge.
Bontempo, V., Jiang, X.R., Cheli, F., Lo Verso, L., Mantovani, G., Vitari, F., Domeneghini, C. and Agassi, A. 2014. Administration of a novel plant extract product via drinking water to post-weaning piglets: effects on performance and gut health. Animal, 8:5, pp 721–730. doi:10.1017/S175173111400041X