The effects of an extract of the brown seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum (AN) in grower–finisher pigs are reported. In Experiment 1, the effect of dietary supplementation with increasing levels of AN extract (ANE) on growth performance, carcass characteristics and gastrointestinal microflora was investigated.

A total of 360 pigs were randomly allocated, based on initial live-weight and sex, to one of four experimental treatments as follows; control diet (no ANE), control diet plus 3 g ANE/kg, control diet plus 6 g ANE/kg and control diet plus 9 g ANE/kg. These diets were fed ad libitum up to slaughter.

In Experiment 2, eight male pigs were allocated to a control diet (no ANE) or the control diet plus 2.5 g ANE/kg to determine effects of ANE on coefficient of total tract apparent digestibility (CTTAD) of nutrients and nitrogen (N) balance.

Supplementation with increasing levels of ANE in Experiment 1 resulted in reduced daily gain, carcass weight and kill-out yield during the combined grower–finisher period (P<0.05); however, there were no effects of treatment on feed intake, feed conversion ratio or carcass characteristics. Increasing levels of dietary ANE resulted in decreased ileal coliform counts (P<0.05).

Increasing dietary ANE also tended to increase adherent lactobacilli in the colon (P=0.080) but caecal bifidobacteria declined (P<0.05).

There were trends towards a linear reduction in colonic bifidobacteria (P=0.077) and towards a quadratic effect on rectal lactobacilli (P=0.077). Intestinal pH was unaffected by ANE supplementation (P>0.05). In Experiment 2, the CTTAD was unaffected by the inclusion of ANE (P>0.05). Overall, the intestinal coliform reductions obtained suggest that ANE may provide a dietary means to improve gut health and potentially reduce pathogen carriage in finishing pigs. However, the negative effects on growth performance observed in healthy animals will most likely limit the commercial use of dietary ANE as a feed additive.

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