Effect of dietary level of protein and fiber on the productive performance and health status of piglets

R. G. Hermes, F. Molist, M. Ywazaki, M. Nofrarías, A. Gomez de Segura, J. Gasa, J. F. Pérez

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To study the interaction between the levels of protein and fiber on the productive performance and health status of piglets, ninety-six 35-d-old piglets (9.11 ± 0.60 kg of BW) were placed in 32 pens of 3 animals each and allotted to 4 dietary treatments for 21 d. The 4 diets were based on rice, dairy products, and soybean meal in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments, with 2 levels of CP (15.4 vs. 19.4%, as-fed basis) and 2 levels of dietary fiber [DF; low fiber (LF) 5.3% NDF and high fiber (HF) 7.15% NDF, as-fed basis]. The HF diet was developed by supplementing the basal diet with 40 g/kg of wheat bran and 20 g/kg of sugar beet pulp. Animal performance was obtained weekly with samples of feces collected for microbiology on the first and the last experimental day and scored from 1 (liquid) to 4 (hard). On the last day, 1 pig from each pen was sampled for blood analyses of the acutephase protein, major acutephase protein of pigs (Pig-Map) and subsequently killed to register the digestive tract weight (including contents) and colon histology. Pigs fed the HF diets had greater ADG (390 vs. 457 g; P ≤ 0.001) and large intestine weight (4.4 vs. 5.4% of BW; P ≤ 0.05). This coincided with a greater (P ≤ 0.05) short-chain fatty acid concentration (especially of acetic and butyric acids), a decrease in Escherichia coli counts (7.77 vs. 6.86 log of cfu/g of feces, P ≤ 0.05), and an increase in the ratio of lactobacilli:enterobacteria (0.76 vs. 1.37, P ≤ 0.05). However, CP level did not modify the productive performance, but 20% CP increased P ≤ 0.05) the relative weight (% of BW) of the small (6.5 vs. 7.7) and large intestine (3.8 vs. 4.3). In the large bowel, the 20% CP diet increased the numbers of goblet cells (4.6 vs. 5.4/100 μm; P ≤ 0.05) and reduced the numbers of intraepithelial lymphocytes (1.8 vs. 1.3/100 μm; P ≤ 0.05). In relation to health status, increasing DF was dependent of the dietary CP content. Supplementing the 16% CP diet with DF reduced the fecal score and increased the antibiotics interventions, whereas the opposite was the case in the 20% CP diet. Pigs fed the 20% CP diet showed decreased (P ≤ 0.05) PigMap concentrations than pigs fed 16% CP diets. As a whole, CP showed major effects on the gastrointestinal weight and gut barrier integrity, whereas DF increased the productive performance and promoted major changes in the microbial colonization and fermentation variables. © 2009 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3569-3577
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2009


  • Dietary fiber
  • Piglet
  • Protein
  • Sugar beet pulp
  • Wheat bran


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