Effects of weaning age and formic acid-based feed additives on pigs from weaning to slaughter
Two hundred and forty piglets were used in a 2×6 factorial experiment to study the effects of weaning age (26 or 36 d) and four formic acid-based feed additives on the performance of pigs from weaning to slaughter. Either formic acid (F) or a mixture of formic acid, propionic acid, and potassium sorbate (FPS) or a mixture of formic acid, propionic acid, and sodium benzoate (FPB) or formic acid in a diatomaceous earth carrier (FD) were added to the diets of weaned piglets (from weaning to 60 d of age) and growing (18 - 46 kg) and finishing pigs (46 - 107 kg) to provide 8, 6, and 6 g acid per kg feed, respectively. The negative control treatment's (C) diets contained no growth promoters, whereas the positive control treatment's weaner and grower diets were supplemented with 40 mg/kg of avilamycin (A). The piglets weaned at the age of 26 and 36 d weighed 7.6 and 10.7 kg at weaning (p < 0.001), and 18.5 and 17.9 kg at the age of 60 d (p > 0.05), respectively. There was a weaning age×feed additive interaction in the weight gain of piglets after weaning (p < 0.05). The weight gain of piglets weaned on day 26 was enhanced by A, FPS, and FD (p < 0.05), and that of piglets weaned on day 36 by A and FPB (p < 0.05). The feed conversion ratio was not affected by weaning ages but was decreased in groups A, F, FBS, and FPB (p < 0.05). The severity of post-weaning diarrhoea was less in groups A, F, FPS, and FD than in C (p < 0.05). In piglets weaned on day 26, faecal water content and the total Escherichia coli count were highest 9 d after weaning. The total E. coli count was reduced only by FD (p < 0.05). Increased faecal water content was characterized by increased faecal Na+ and decreased K+ concentrations. Weaning age did not influence performance or carcass quality in the growing-finishing pigs. Feed additives did not affect weight gain in the growing pigs, but FPS and FPB enhanced weight gain during finishing period and total fattening (p < 0.05). In summary, the pigs' growth performance from weaning to slaughter was not affected by weaning age but it was enhanced by mixtures of formic and propionic acids with small amounts of sorbate or benzoate.