Effects of Supplementation via Hydrogels on Post-Weaning and Cold Stress in Piglets



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This study investigated the potential mitigating effects of probiotic and glucose supplementation on post-weaning and cold stress in piglets. The supplements were delivered via alginate hydrogels with the hypothesis that they may reduce physiological and immunological stress markers in piglets undergoing post-weaning and cold stress. Piglets were acclimated to alginate hydrogels with electrolytes and maternal neonatal pheromone (MNP; to induce consumption) the week prior to weaning. After 90 piglets, with 30 piglets per treatment, were weaned at 21 days of age and were allocated to three groups: a negative control group without any hydrogel beads (NC), a positive control group supplemented with blank (just the carrier ingredients) alginate hydrogel beads (PC) sprayed with MNP, and an electrolyte /probiotic/glucose (EPG) supplement in alginate hydrogel beads sprayed with MNP. These groups were housed in 15 pens, with each group occupying 5 pens, and each pen containing 6 piglets- three females and three males. All three groups were submitted to cold stress between Day 3 and Day 4 post-weaning, with the environmental temperature reaching a minimum of 58.10 °F. Biochemical and hematological parameters, average daily gain (ADG), and feed intake were evaluated to assess the animals’ stress response, immune status, and growth performance. Significant differences were observed in ADG over the course of the study. On Day 1, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 7, the differences in ADG among the groups were significative (p < 0.001, p < 0.05, p < 0.001, respectively). In terms of feed intake, significant differences were observed only in the 24 hours after weaning (p = 0.03). Hydrogel beads consumption did not show significant differences between the PC and EPG group on the evaluated days. In terms of blood chemistry, glucose (GLU) and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) increased over time. Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) also exhibited significance across time, suggesting physiological changes in piglets over study’s duration. As for hematological analyses, changes were observed across the time in lymphocytes (LYM), neutrophil count (NEU), and the neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR). Red Blood Cells (RBC), hemoglobin (HGB), and hematocrit (HCT) increased over time. Significant interaction effects between day and treatment were found in HCT (p = 0.02), red blood cell distribution width (RBWc, p = 0.05), mean corpuscular volume (MCV, p = 0.04), and total protein (TP, p = 0.02). This suggests that the EPG supplement’s influence on these parameters varied depending on the post-weaning day, potentially optimizing piglets’ condition. In the EPG group those parameters did not vary over the time, while in the NC and PC groups, these levels increased linearly over time. This suggests that the EPG group remained better hydrated during cold stress. In conclusion, while EPG supplementation didn’t directly enhance piglet growth or feed intake, it showed the potential in moderating immunity in post-weaned, cold-stressed piglets. These results call for further research on stress management strategies in piglets.



Piglet, Probiotic and glucose supplementation, Cold stress, Immune response