Hemorrhagic bowel syndrome (HBS) affects growing and finishing swine, with estimated mortality rates of 0.5 to 7 percent. Pigs between 4 and 6 months of age are most commonly affected. Otherwise healthy pigs die suddenly without evidence of diarrhea or obvious clinical signs of disease other than a pale skin color and a distended abdomen. Death occurs because of intestinal volvulus (twisted gut), which may be related to a change in feeding activity associated with an out-of-feed event, rapid weather change, or fighting. Frequently pigs die within 1 to 2 days of these events. Typically the small intestine is thin-walled on necropsy and filled with either clotted or unclotted blood and the large intestine usually contains tarry fecal material.

HBS is very frustrating and costly to hog farmers because there is no specific cause, although as we mentioned, suspected causes include incidents of feed outage followed by overconsumption, gut fill as affected by the frequency of feeding, mycotoxins and stocking density. The current thought is that keeping pigs on more regular feeding patterns and controlling potential bacterial overgrowth in the intestine that may occur during binge eating can help reduce HBS mortality.

Anecdotal reports have suggested that the use of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) has had a beneficial effect on reducing the incidence of HBS. When DDGS prices were high and the level of DDGS that farmers used in feed was reduced, HBS cases seemed to increase. Because measuring death loss in classic commercial research settings will not give the statistically significant data due to the need for extremely large number of pigs, it was decided to evaluate a fermentation product that uses Diamond V Original Technology (Gladiator) under field conditions as a tool to reduce mortality associated with HBS. This product has been shown to help pigs manage stress caused by specific disease challenges and mycotoxins. 

Jamie Pietig, swine nutritionist at Hubbard Feeds, had several customers with chronic HBS deaths use Gladiator in their finishing diets. Two pounds of Gladiator per ton of feed was added to the diet and fed to pigs starting at 50 lbs. and continuing until market weight. The theory behind the low level and long inclusion period concept is to positively impact gut micro flora over an extended period of time. When the pigs reach 150-230 lbs. of body weight (the most common weight that HBS occurs), they should have a healthy, well-functioning digestive system to help reduce HBS deaths.

Gladiator was used in side-by- side tests in 2400- and 1000-head barns and fed to over 20,000 pigs. In both systems, Pietig reports that the Gladiator-fed pigs had reductions in death loss of 1-2 percent. 

Results from these field trials indicate that Gladiator can be part of a management plan to reduce the mortality and associated economic loss due to HBS. Gladiator improves the bacterial population and structural integrity of the gut, helping the pig deal with stressors like disruptions in feeding behavior, bacterial overgrowth, and HBS. Pietig says the managers of both farms are excited to have a tool they can use to positively impact HBS, which has proven to be an elusive problem.

While the incidence of HBS has been reduced on farms feeding the product, Hubbard Feeds encourages producers to visit with their nutritionist to determine if this is the right strategy for their pigs.