It is well documented that when pigs are sick, reduced feed intake occurs. Feed intake in animals is regulated by a complex interaction of brain influences, hormones, sensory and motor pathways, gastro-intestinal tract and other peripheral systems; therefore, the consequence of immune responses to inflammation can have considerable negative impacts on swine performance.
Practitioners continue to explore ways to use a more holistic approach in caring for animals as we find solutions that have not been in our traditional “toolbox,” such as antibiotics and vaccines. The art of practice is blending management technologies with preventive “tools” to reach each farm’s production objectives. But, we have a poor understanding of how to feed sick pigs, especially with pathogens that have prolonged activity in the animal.
Historically, we know products can be found to have immense importance in health. Years ago, small amounts of particular vitamins were found to provide important improvements in human health. As an example, this influenced research into our understanding of selenium and vitamin E as major components for improved health in pig production.
The consequences of an overzealous immune response or even continuous inflammatory response can have considerable negative growth impacts for swine. The goal is to formulate diets with functional feed ingredients that regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation.
Understanding the mechanisms by which the immune system’s changes create or reduce the animal’s performance will allow us to develop management strategies to maximize the pig’s genetic potential and producer profitability. To accomplish this goal, a better understanding of the interactions between nutrition and immunology is needed. Researchers are constantly looking for products that can identify the mechanisms and also promote improved performance but, until consistent results are found, the search continues.
Recently, new data has become available on a second-generation and bioactive fraction derived from mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) (sold as Bio-Mos) of the outer cell wall of a specific strain of yeast. This natural mannan rich fraction of carbohydrate (MRF) (sold as Actigen) has been shown to block unfavorable organisms from the gut. This carbohydrate supports nutrient utilization, maintains digestive function and enzyme activity, controls inflammation and reduces the gap between ideal and actual performance (Che et al., 2011; Samuel et al., 2012; Xiao et al., 2010). These mechanisms are backed by nutrigenomics research.