FEED MITIGANT: Swine Nutrition’s New Buzz Word

Feed mitigant might be a term you are not familiar with, but soon will be. In the feed industry, many would call them ingredients because some mitigants have been used in a nutritional capacity. They should be described as chemicals since products that fall into this descriptor don’t contain nutritional value, or at least not one of measurable value. Instead, think of them as nutritional aids. Some can increase the value or availability of specific nutrients. Others can be thought to possess nutrient-sparing effects by improving gut health through bacteria and virus reduction. That is an oversimplification, yet it is the concept that is important.

Feed mitigant examples
Propionic acid is a classic example of a feed mitigant. The poultry industry has been using it for decades to reduce mold growth in finished diets. For the same reason, beef and dairy producers spray it on silage, and other high moisture forages stored for an extended period. Propionic acid reduces the pH, creating an environment where mold cannot grow. Proper application is essential, and it is unlikely to reach a 100% reduction. When added to poultry and swine diets in adequate quantities, the resulting pH reduction can improve digestibility. However, caution must be taken as overuse has been known to cause swine ulcers and negatively impact feed palatability in many species.

Formaldehyde (formalin) has also been used as a feed mitigant. It is officially recognized and can make claims for bacterial reduction in animal feed. However, it has the potential to bind proteins in the diet and negatively impact performance in swine. Formaldehyde became a popular tool in the face of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) several years ago. It seemed to offer some benefit by reducing the effects of the virus. The major downside is the harm it can cause to humans and the dangers of using it within feed mills.

Reducing virus and bacteria
PED was somewhat of a catalyst in motivating feed ingredient companies to develop products to combat viruses and bacteria. Since the initial PED outbreak, we have witnessed a surge in organic acids, plant compounds (commonly referred to as essential oils), and medium-chain fatty acids. All these types of products have shown limited yet beneficial reductions in bacterial and viral loads. Concerning organic acids, benzoic acid has received much attention and is showing promise in reducing viruses specifically. Plant compounds such as oregano, or more specifically its components, are great against bacteria, but research shows they are not so great against viruses.

Why are we talking about feed mitigants? PED still exists, yet it isn’t as devastating as it once was. Salmonella and E.coli are constant issues that we have learned to live with and reduce to manageable levels. With the possible exposure of mainland US swine herds to African Swine Fever (ASF) looming, feed mitigants might be our best option if a vaccine is not developed in time.

At Sioux Nation Ag Center, we are staying on top of the latest information regarding feed mitigants and developing an appropriate feed program solution. The best approach will be preventative. Once ASF is here, and I hope we successfully keep it out, it’s probably too late for mitigation. If you have any concerns about ASF and would like more information on how to use these products to reduce your risk, contact your Sioux Nation Nutritionist.