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Gut morphology and nutritional management

  • R. Slade (a1) and H. M. Miller (a1)

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In the natural situation, the piglet’s transition from a wholly milk to a wholly non-milk diet (weaning) is gradual and paralleled by progressive, appropriate modification of gut structure. The sow’s milk provides nutritional, trophic and immune support throughout this transition thereby mediating intestinal exposure to novel nutrients and pathogenic agents whilst the gut structures necessary to process them appropriately are maintained and developed. Commercial weaning deprives the piglet of lactogenic support and simultaneously necessitates the marked acceleration of gut development if piglet health and growth are to be maintained. Intestinal mass, growth (Slade and Miller 2000) and fractional protein synthesis rate (Ks) increase significantly following weaning (Le Dividich and Seve 2000). Correspondingly, the nutrient cost of post-weaning intestinal development is high. However, weaning is invariably associated with a dramatic reduction in feed intake and, in turn, with a decline in gut efficiency characterised by a reduction in villus height and an increase in crypt depth. Perversely, the gut morphology of the weaner thus appears a limiting factor in its own development. Here we introduce a simple histological method for estimation of individual crypt-villus structure surface area and then, in conjunction with conventional histomorphological measurements, use this to relate piglet performance, nutrition and gut morphology.

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Coffey, R. D., and G. L., Cromwell. 1995. “The impact of environment and antimicrobial agents on the growth response of early-weaned pigs to spray dried porcine plasma.” Journal of Animal Science 73:25322539.
Le Dividich, J., and B., Seve. 2000. “Effects of underfeeding during the weaning period on growth, metabolism and hormonal adjustments in the piglet.” Domestic Animal Endocrinology 19:6374.
Miller, H. M., and P., Toplis. 2000. “Supplement containing immunoglobulins fed post-weaning promotes nursery performance.” Pp. 106 in Proceedings of the British Society of Animal Science.
Pluske, J. R., Williams, I. H., and Aherne, F. X.. 1996a. “Maintenance of villous height and crypt depth in piglets by providing continuous nutrition after weaning.” Animal Science 62:131144.
Pluske, J. R., Williams, I. H., and Aherne, F. X.. 1996b.. “Villous height and crypt depth in piglets in response to increases in the intake of cow’s milk after weaning.” Animal Science 62:145158.
Slade, R. D., and H. M., Miller. 2000. “Changes in gastric, small intestinal and hepatic tissue growth coefficients following weaning.” Pp. 37 in The Weaner Pig University of Nottingham, UK: British Society of Animal Science.
van Dijk, A. J., Everts, H., Nabuurs, M. J. A., Mergy, R. J. C. F., and Beynen, A. C.. 2001. “Growth performance of weanling pigs fed spray-dried animal plasma: a review.” Livestock Production Science 68:263274.

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