June 14, 2018

15/06/2018: Synergistic effects of hops and magnesium on piglet performance and behaviour

by Anne Möddel, Dr Michael Wilhelm, Dr Tilman Wilke

Dr Eckel Animal Nutrition GmbH & Co. KG, Germany In most countries of the world, animal welfare is increasingly becoming a major concern. This poses a challenge, when we look at the potential threats to the animal as well as to the livestock producer.

An important aspect is the stress level of the animal. Stress is considered an environmental impact, which overloads the nervous system. This has a negative effect on the animal, causing suffering and behavioural changes. These factors can be regarded as an indicator for animal welfare. Large-scale commercial piglet production comes with a number of potential stressors, such as handling, stocking, transportation, ranking fights, heat and high humidity, poor air quality and lack of materials for rooting and playing. 

Image credit: Dr Eckel
One of the behavioural indicators for this is tail-biting (caudophagy) in production systems where tail-docking is omitted due to animal welfare policies. In addition to long-term and fundamental changes of the system (building, management, ventilation, group sizes), pig producers have a need for supportive measures on the farm to improve animal welfare. One solution could be a novel type of feed additive, which increases the stress resistance of the animals.

Innovative combination as support
Hops (Humulus lupulus) is known for its calming and stress-reducing effect and is used as a traditional natural medicine for humans. Several different mechanisms are seen to be responsible for this effect. The main mechanism is an increased activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the central nervous system by affecting receptors in the brain. This sedating effect supports a good night’s sleep.

For decades, Magnesium has been considered an anti-stress mineral. In fact, the dietary supplementation with magnesium shows several effects. It reduces stress-related hormones, e.g., in pigs during transport. Especially highly bioavailable magnesium sources reduce stress indicators in pigs, e.g., blood cortisol and meat colour. It is assumed that magnesium supplementation improves the ability to cope with stress by inhibiting pathways of the nervous system.

The hypothesis of this study is that a feed additive composed of hops and highly bioavailable magnesium (MagPhyt) has a calming effect on rearing pigs and thus leads to reduced severity and occurence of tail-biting in long-tailed animals. The goal of the trial was to measure frequency and severity of indicators of stress-related tail-biting in rearing pigs post weaning and assess the influence on performance.

Read more HERE.

Visit the Dr Eckel website, HERE.

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