Managing PWD in Piglets – The Natural Way

Dr. Badal Singh

Poultry & Swine Consultant, South Asia

Pork is one of the most liked and an important source of animal protein relished in number of countries worldwideacross numerous different cultures and geographical regions.The year 2022 recorded over 780 million pigs worldwide compared to 750 million heads in the preceding year(1).Despite the concerns and economic impact created by African Swine Fever (ASF) majorly in South-East Asia, there is still a high demand for pork.

One of the issues which swine industry has been facing over the years is the problem associated with compromised gut health of Piglets at the time of weaning leading to post weaning diarrhoea (PWD), one of the most important concerns impacting productivity and profitability of the flock. PWD in weaned pigs is characterised by frequent discharge of watery faeces during the first 2weeks after weaning and represents one of the major economic problems for the pig industry (2).

PWD is a multifactorial condition which occurs both due to the management related issues and due to the pathogen proliferation, however still the complete and the precise pathogenesis is yet to be identified (3). Weaning in pigs is one of the most stressful times where there are many changes which impact the outcome of PWD. Pigs during weaning are required to deal with sudden change in environment, new piglets in the nursery and this the new littermates in addition to the stress of adapting to a new environment (4).

Separation of piglets from the sows, changing of diet from milk to solid feed, mixing up of different piglets in the nursery, change of environment and creating of social order and hierarchy among the piglets in the flock are some of the management related factors which predisposes the piglets to PWD not only through the inefficient physiological functioning of the body but at the same time allowing both intrinsic microbes as well as exogenous pathogens to proliferate and creating compromised  gut health leading to PWD. Although at times themanagemental factors are partly managed by late weaning of piglets, but due to its economic consequences, it is not widely acceptable piggeries.

Since the piglets need to have a quick physiological adaptation to change in the diet from more digestible Sows milk to less digestible plant-based proteins and carbohydrates which also contain multiple forms of anti-nutritional factors(5, 6).Since the major enzymes during suckling phase is lactase and after the shift to the solid diet, the body takes some time to establish the required levels of enzymes like amylase, protease etc which increases the chance of more undigested feed present in the GUT thereby acting as a predisposing factor for microbial proliferation and colonization. It also leads to sharp reduction in the feed intake immediately post weaning(7).

Among the most important infective agents leading to PWD is the proliferation colonization and of Escherichiacoli(E.coli)which happens to be a common resident of the pig’s gastro intestinal tract (GIT) but proliferates as the conditions becomes suitable at the time of weaning. The strains of E. coli having fimbriae (K88 or F4) can attach with the enterocytes of the intestinal lumen and secrete enterotoxin which are majorly heat labile leading to opening of chloride channels and loss of chloride ions, fluid and this leading to diarrhoea. Since E. Coli happens to be the first opportunistic organisms in the to proliferate and colonize, the other organisms (Viruses, Protozoa) follow and aggravate the condition and therefore the symptoms.

One of the most common approaches which has been in practice for a long time for control of PWD is the use of antibiotics and minerals which include colistin sulphate, Zin oxide, Copper sulphate etc often incorporated in the diets of the weaned pigs.(8). Although this strategy has helped in control of PWD to a good extent but at the same time has increased the evolution of resistant microbial strains along with the environmental constraints which Zinc oxide poses. This has effectively been looked up with a serious concern which has led to many countries globally either to completely stop the use of Zinc oxide or to phase out its use gradually by adopting new practices and solutions which are eco-friendly and at the same time effective to manage the problem of PWD in pigs.

Various other approaches for the prevention and control on PWD have since been tried which include immune modulators, probiotics, organic acids, anti-microbial peptides, essential oils etc. Each of the solutions have their own benefits but at the same time have not been able to completely replace the use of Zin oxide in the feed. One of the new strategies for the prevention of PWD which is gaining prominence is the use of whole plant botanicals. These whole plant botanicals having standardised levels of some important phytochemicals ensure the successful replacement of Zin oxide in the feed and at the same time ensuring the complete prevention of PWD as well as positive impact on the growth of the piglets.

These whole plant botanicals have a muti targeted effect within the body of piglets which ranges from creating protective shield around the enterocyteswhich inhibitscolonization and proliferation of pathogenic microbes, optimise the gut immunity, reduce the gut inflammation, and optimise the gut movement and secretion. These solutions through the synergetic combination of various standardised phytochemicals can target the specific systems within the body to create a unified response and thus helps in prevention of PWD. These solutions primarily are intended to act as preventive measure for PWD by creating an adaptive ecosystem within the body of Pigs. Various strategies can thus be incorporated for the use of these whole plant botanicals for the prevention and control of PWD in pigs.

Since the need of the hour is to find alternative solutions and strategies to prevent and control PWDby reducing its reliance on Zinc Oxide. One such solution has been formulated by Essence Natura Pvt Ltd, India with the brand name of NORFLUX. The solution is a synergistic combination of various essential herbs to fetch the target standardised phytochemicals which help in prevention and control of PWD through natural way by replacing Zinc oxide. Additionally, they have another product named NORGAINwhich replaces the antibiotic growth promoters in the feed. The combined strategy of using both products have shown to have beneficial effect and a synergistic impact in control and prevention of PWD and at the same time enhancing the growth of the pigs.