A new era of swine production is taking shape as producers and the broader industry adjust to new rules, expectations and opportunities for how pigs are raised.
New science-driven, bio-based feed additive options have become a major focus, and one of the areas of innovation gaining attention is medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) technology.
MCFAs offer a fresh approach to enhancing swine diets and supporting integrated swine management strategies designed to optimize animal health and performance across all key phases of production.
This technology is well established in Europe, where it has helped production systems sustain or optimize animal wellness and performance while they successfully transition toward a reduction or removal of the use of antibiotics.
"The more we have learned about the advantages of MCFA for swine production, the more the opportunities and application strategies have expanded," says veterinarian and MCFA expert Dr. Fokko Aldershoff of Nuscience.
New option for Canadian producers
Now MCFA is gaining fresh attention across Canada over the past year as the newest generation technology has become available and is now seeing a sharp rise in interest and adoption.
Among numerous benefits, recent study results from leading universities and research institutions are expanding the knowledge of specific MCFA advantages for: supporting animal health and performance, providing an in-feed safeguard against viral contamination, protecting animals against a variety of wellness and stress challenges, and supporting control strategies against major pathogens.
Unique structure, diverse benefits
MCFA are molecules consisting of 6 to 12 carbon length chains that – under the right formulations and strategies – have shown functional activities beneficial to all phases of livestock production and value chain movement. This includes particular advantages during critical periods of transition and vulnerability over the course of production cycles. The leading MCFA technology has also been shown to help optimize intrinsic health and immunity across livestock species by positively supporting gut morphology.
In swine, along with broad animal performance benefits, among the specific pathogen control advantages with MCFA are benefits for supporting strategies to safeguard feed and animals against a number of top concerns. This includes the potential shown against enveloped viruses, such as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, porcine reproductive and respiratory virus and African swine fever (ASF). MCFA also shows unique advantages to reduce vertical transmission of disease between sows and piglets and to address persistent bacterial pathogen threats such as Streptococcus suis.
The latest formulations featuring MCFA technology are considered a strong fit with market expectations both now and into the future. They represent a ‘triple-win tool’ benefitting the animals, producers and the industry as a whole. The technology fits well with advanced strategies designed to support health, well-being and overall performance of animals, including those raised under strict judicious use principles regarding the use of antibiotics.
Built for the new world of swine production
The latest research indicates leading MCFA options are beneficial in key phases of the life cycle and can support production systems regardless of whether or not those systems involve use of antimicrobials, says Aldershoff. However, with the shift toward greater restrictions on antimicrobials use and stricter judicious use principles, they have gained rising attention as a leading option to help producers transition to this new landscape.
An additional key advantage is benefits for animals during transport. Supporting the gut environment is arguably the top area of opportunity for producers and industry to optimize capacity, to get the most from production systems and also to protect value as animals move throughout the system. For example, pigs raised in Canada that are transported to the U.S. for finishing are faced with a variety of challenges including transport stress and heightened wellness challenges. Optimized gut health supports a higher plane of overall health for those animals and helps them better maintain weight and avoid stress or wellness loss.
The bottom line is there are numerous advantages for swine operations that are worth considering as part of an integrated feed strategy, he says. Today’s global animal feed and nutrition sector, along with animal agriculture, is rapidly transitioning to the future. Advances such as MCFA are expected to play an increasing role, by providing new solutions for safe, nutritious and high-quality animal food.