Australian research suggests diet may play a significant role in controlling swine dysentery. That may also apply to other diseases affecting the pig’s large intestine.

Swine dysentery reduces growth rates and hurts feed-to-gain ratios. The standard treatment is in-feed or injectable medications. This costs money and can result in drug-resistant strains of dysentery.

In the Australian trials, a team at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, looked at diet effects on the disease. They found dietary ingredients digested mainly in the small intestine reduced or prevented clinical signs of swine dysentery.

In a nutshell, feedstuffs that go through to the large intestine seem to irritate pigs infected with swine dysentery and cause clinical signs to appear. Diets with cooked cereals ù such as cooked white rice and animal proteins like fish meal, meat, bone meal and blood meal ù prevented colonization and clinical expression of the disease.

Diets containing nonstarch polysaccharides ù wheat, barley and oat groats ù tend to pass undigested into the large intestine. There the fermentation process appears to trigger dysentery in pigs. Corn and milo tend not to promote the disease to a great degree.

So cooked cereal diets may control dysentery in infected pigs. Diets with corn, milo and other ingredients
containing low levels of fermentable carbohydrates also will reduce the illness. Finer grinds may increase the digestive process in the small intestine, keeping pigs from developing any clinical signs of the disease.

But researchers note temperature, overcrowding and other stressors also trigger swine dysentery. So diet isn’t the only factor in controlling the disease.