US sees introduction of seaweed-based ingredient aimed at boosting gut health in pigs

© iStock/Fotosmurf03

A feed ingredient product made of blended types of seaweed may offer an immunity boost to swine raised without antibiotics. 

The product, OceanFeed Swine, has just been launched in the US market by Ocean Harvest Technology (OHT). The product has previously been used in other parts of the world, but is only now being made available to the US market, said the company.

Prior to its release in the US, the seaweed-based feed ingredient was examined for use in antibiotic-free systems, said David Newman, swine producer and associate professor of animal science at Arkansas State University, who carried out trial work on behalf of OHT. “These were university trials looking at how it fed in weaned to finished pigs and now [we are] looking at nursery pigs and gestating and lactating sows,” he told us.

“We’ve tried [almost] everything - oregano, diatomaceous earth, essential oils. Of everything we’ve used, we’ve seen the best results with OHT [seaweed product],” he said of his co-owned farm’s production tests with the seaweed-based feed ingredient. 

The researchers, he said, are in the process of publishing its results from the feeding trials. He is now working on feeding in nursery pigs and with gestating and lactating sows.

The Canadian-registered Ocean Harvest Technology (OHT), which has R&D facilities in Galway in the west of Ireland, a sales presence in the US and production sites in Indonesia and Vietnam, has been supplying the animal feed sector globally for over six years. 

It uses about 20 different seaweed species for fish, cattle, or pig feed rations. The formulations are a mix of various species, and are based on the bioactives in the seaweed.

Initial feeding trials

Early feeding trials were done with weaned to finished pigs, said Newman. Pigs getting the trial diet had an amount of the seaweed feed ingredient added and control pigs either were given a standard diet, or that diet with a level of ractopamine hydrochloride for the final 30 days.

The project was designed to explore performance comparisons, he said. Although pigs getting the beta agonist saw a gain increase at the end of production, those getting the seaweed matched that rate of gain over the study period, said the academic.

He said samples were taken from the pigs’ digestive tracts and those getting the seaweed were found to have improved gene expression of FABP2, which relates to gut health. “They’ve got an improved immune system over the controls,” he added.

Additionally, the product is showing positive results when used in an antibiotic-free production system, said Newman.

“Immunity starts at the gut, and we’ve seen positive responses in the gut and the performance data,” he said. “We’ve seen some repetition on that, and just, I think, overall from a cost standpoint, it’s a great tool for the toolbox.”

Upcoming efforts

At the farm level, Newman said he is starting to add the algae product into rations for gestating sows based on research looking at the influence of seaweed on piglet gut health and development.

“We just recently started building the sow packs for rations and we’ve involved [OceanFeed Swine] at .6%,” he said.

Additionally, there are plans to run a controlled experiment looking at influence of the algae feed with a disease challenge, he said.

In an unintended stress and disease challenge at the farm level, young pigs that had feed including the marine product are expected to be market-ready about 15 days prior to a non-supplemented group, he said.

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