In pigs, digestive disorders associated with weaning lead to antibiotic use to maintain intestinal health. Microalgae have been studied in humans and rodents for their beneficial effects on health. The nutritional value of microalgae in animal diets has been assessed, but results were not conclusive. Dietary supplementation with microalgae as an alternative to antibiotic use was studied in two trials (72 piglets with initial BW=9.1±1.1 kg in trial 1 and 24 piglets with initial BW=9.1±0.9 kg in trial 2). All piglets were weaned at 28 days of age and then housed in individual cages. Piglets were randomly allocated to one of the four diets during 2 weeks after weaning: a standard diet with no supplementation (NC) or the standard diet supplemented with 1% Spirulina (SP), with 1% Chlorella (CV), or with 0.2% of colistin as positive control (PC). Trial 1 was performed to determine the effect of microalgae supplementation from 28 to 42 days on performance and incidence of diarrhoea. Animals received then a standard diet from 42 to 56 days of age. Trial 2 was performed from 28 to 42 days of age to assess nutrient digestibility of the experimental diets and to determine inflammatory status and intestinal morphology at 42 days of age.
In trial 1, 94% of the pigs had diarrhoea in the 1st week after weaning with no beneficial effect of colistin on diarrhoea incidence, average daily feed intake (ADFI), average daily gain (ADG), and gain : feed (G : F) ratio. This suggests that the diarrhoea was due to digestive disorders that did not result from enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli infection. Supplementation with either Spirulina or Chlorella did not affect ADFI, ADG and G : F in trials 1 and 2 (P>0.10). Diarrhoea incidence was reduced in CV pigs compared with NC, SP and PC pigs (P<0.05). Total tract digestibility in pig receiving microalgae was greater for gross energy (P<0.05), and tended to be greater for dry matter, organic matter and NDF (P<0.10) compared with NC and PC pigs. Villus height at the jejunum was greater in SP and CV pigs compared with NC and PC pigs (P<0.05).
This study shows a potential effect of both Spirulina and Chlorella supplementation on intestinal development and a potential of Chlorella supplementation to manage mild digestive disorders. Further investigation is necessary to determine the mechanism action of Spirulina and Chlorella on gut health and physiology.
Furbeyre, H., Van Milgen, J., Mener, T., Gloaguen, M., & Labussière, E. (2017). Effects of dietary supplementation with freshwater microalgae on growth performance, nutrient digestibility and gut health in weaned piglets. Animal, 11(2), 183-192. doi:10.1017/S1751731116001543