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Animal Science, Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine

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Translational Animal Science





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The objectives of this experiment were to evaluate the effects of alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters (AGP), two group sizes, and their interaction on nursery pig performance to serve as a model for future AGP alternative studies. A 41-d experiment was conducted in a commercial wean-to-finish barn; 1,300 piglets weaned at 21 d of age (weaned 2 or 4 d prior to experiment; 6.14 ± 0.18 kg BW; PIC 1050 sows and multiple sire lines) were blocked by sire, sex, and weaning date, then assigned to eight treatments: four dietary treatments each evaluated across two group sizes. The four dietary treatments were: negative control (NC), positive control (PC; NC + in-feed antibiotics), zinc oxide plus a dietary acidifier (blend of fumaric, citric, lactic, and phosphoric acid) (ZA; NC + ZnO + acid), and a Bacillus-based direct-fed-microbial (DFM) plus resistant potato starch (RS) (DR; NC + DFM + RS). The two group sizes were 31 or 11 pigs/pen; floor space was modified so area/pig was equal between the group sizes (0.42 m2/pig). There were 7 pens/diet with 11 pigs/pen and 8 pens/diet with 31 pigs/pen. Data were analyzed as a randomized complete block design with pen as the experimental unit. Diagnostic assessment of oral fluids, serum, and tissue samples was used to characterize health status. Pigs experienced natural challenges of acute diarrhea and septicemia in week 1 and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) in weeks 4–6. There was a significant interaction between diet and group size for ADG (P = 0.012). PC increased ADG in large and small groups (P < 0.05) and ZA increased ADG only in large groups (P < 0.05). Small groups had improved ADG compared to large groups when fed NC or DR diets (P < 0.05). Similarly, PC increased ADFI (P < 0.05). Compared to NC, ZA improved ADFI in large groups only (P < 0.05; diet × group size: P = 0.015). Pigs fed PC had greater G:F than NC (P < 0.05), and small groups had greater G:F than large groups (P < 0.05). There was no effect of ZA or DR on G:F. Pigs fed PC required fewer individual medical treatments than NC and pigs fed ZA were intermediate (P = 0.024). More pigs were removed from large than small groups (P = 0.049), and there was no effect of diet on removals (P > 0.10). In conclusion, careful study design, protocol implementation, sample collection, and recording of important information allowed us to characterize the health status of this group of pigs and determine treatment effects on growth performance and morbidity.


This article is published as Olsen, Kristin M., Nicholas K. Gabler, Chris J. Rademacher, Kent J. Schwartz, Wesley P. Schweer, Gene G. Gourley, and John F. Patience. "The effects of group size and subtherapeutic antibiotic alternatives on growth performance and morbidity of nursery pigs: a model for feed additive evaluation." Translational animal science 2, no. 3 (2018): 298-310. doi: 10.1093/tas/txy068.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
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