Starter Diets Hold Key to Weaned
By Ben Hardin
March 15, 2000
When piglets can no longer get their
mothers milk, most swine producers feed them an expensive protein that
helps relieve their stress and prevent illness.
Agricultural Research Service
scientists, by researching how this protein called spray-dried plasma works,
could be on the path of finding improved feed additives that are more effective
or less expensive.
In the early 1990's, spray-dried plasma from livestock began to
revolutionize swine nutritional programs. Diets of most early-weaned pigs now
include this product. Never have scientists been able to find any instance of
disease agents being transmitted through them. Accordingly, they have been
excluded from a U.S. Food and Drug
Administration final ruling that was implemented in 1997 to ban use of
waste byproducts from animal processing in animal feed.
The ARS scientists and their colleagues at the
University of Missouri-Columbia and
Endogen, Inc. of Woburn, Mass., are
studying the immune system of pigs that have been fed spray-dried plasma. Their
overall goal: to find cost-effective ways for swine producers to produce
healthier pigs that eat heartily and quickly produce plenty of pork from each
pound of feed.
Today, the ARS scientific team is scheduled to receive the
National Pork Producers 2000 Award for
Innovative Basic Research at the Midwest Animal Sciences meeting in Des Moines,
In their research, the scientists weaned two-week-old pigs and fed some of
them diets consisting of 7 percent spray-dried plasma for a week. Then they
injected all the pigs with lipopolysaccharide from killed bacteria to simulate
infection by a live disease organism and measured their response in terms of
hormones and other chemicals they produced. Responses of pigs that had been fed
the spray-dried plasma indicated that they were better able to resist
infections during the week after weaning.
ARS is the USDA's chief scientific
Scientific contact: Jeffery A.
Carroll, ARS Animal Physiology
Research Unit, Columbia, Mo., phone (573) 882-6261, fax (573) 884-4798,