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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Piglet Feed Supplements Support Immune Systems / February 4, 2009 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Read the magazine story to find out more.

Photo: ARS research leader Brian Kerr examines a piglet. Link to photo information
Feeding dried distiller's grain, a co-product of ethanol production, can enhance piglets' immune system. Click the image for more information about it.


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Piglet Feed Supplements Support Immune Systems

By Ann Perry
February 4, 2009

As feed costs rise and the production of ethanol from corn grain increases, swine producers have ramped up their search for new feed supplements for younger swine. According to studies by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists, feeding dried distiller's grains (DDGS) to piglets can give their immune systems an extra boost.

The U.S. ethanol industry generates an estimated 10-14 million metric tons of DDGS annually from the milling of corn grain that yields fermentable sugars for conversion into fuel alcohol. The majority of DDGS are fed to beef and dairy cattle.

But livestock producers also use DDGS to supplement the diet of older pigs. So Tom Weber, a physiologist at the ARS Swine Odor and Manure Management Research Unit in Ames, Iowa, partnered with research leader Brian Kerr and microbiologist Cherie Ziemer to study the effects of feeding DDGS to young pigs.

For their research on piglets, the team divided weanling pigs into four groups and fed them either a standard control diet or diets supplemented with DDGS, soybean hulls or citrus pulp. After one week, the researchers observed an increase in cytokine expression in the pigs’ small intestine, which they linked to DDGS consumption. Cytokines are chemical messengers that are essential for proper immune function.

This response reinforced findings of previous DDGS studies showing that pigs consuming diets supplemented with DDGS exhibited reduced levels of ileitis, a common inflammation of the small intestine.

Kerr and others have found that adult pigs can be fed with a corn and soy-meal feed that is up to 40 percent DDGS. However, piglets are given feed with a maximum DDG content of 7.5 percent, because their growth may be reduced when they consume too much fiber.

Read more about this research in the February 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Last Modified: 2/4/2009