The use of acids in pig diets has been done for many years in successful swine operations. It is a well-known fact, young piglets lack some basic biological needs for breaking down nutrients and reducing health challenges in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The first few weeks post weaning are extremely important for nursery pigs. Because young pigs lack some of these basic functions, it is important to supplement their diets with additives. By supplementing pig diets early on with acids to increase absorption and reduce harmful pathogens, pigs have a better chance for healthy growth rates.
Acidification of pig diets is done with inorganic and organic acids in an effort to overcome the digestive insufficiency, post weaning lag and improve efficiency after weaning. Young pigs have a limited ability to produce HCl in the stomach. HCl production is small at birth but increases with advancing age. The greater the production of acid in the stomach, the lower the gastric pH. Adding a blend of acids can improve digestion for pigs and reduce harmful pathogen loads. The pH in the stomach can then regulate the movement of viable bacteria to the small intestine.
Dietary acidifiers can decrease the pH in the stomach and lower GI tract, protecting the host from pathogenic invasion and proliferation and improve nutrient digestion. These benefits can subsequently result in improved pig performance. Reducing urine pH in piglets can also improve the overall environment and health of the pigs.
Reducing the gastric pH is not the only effect of acidifiers. Acidification can suppress pathogens in the GI tract with the proper blend of organic and inorganic acids. Using a blend of acids can improve the animal response due to acid dissociation properties along the pig’s digestive tract.
Every acid loses its H+ ions at different rates, this is dissociation. Inorganic acids dissociate quickly, which can cause a rapid drop in pH. Organic acids are much slower to dissociate, giving them the ability to be bactericidal. While in the presence of bacteria, organic acids can carry intact H+ molecules through the bacteria cell wall. Once the acid has entered the bacteria cell, they give up their H+ ions, which causes a lowering of the pH inside the cell. This drop in pH causes intracellular heartburn.
The intracellular heartburn will create irregular cell function as the cell attempts to remove the H+ ions. The cell wall may then weaken and rupture, using up all its energy to remove the H+ ions. Once the cell ruptures, the bacteria die.1
Kemin has developed three products in their diet acidification portfolio to help producers improve their efficiency, KEM-GEST™, FORMYL™ and Acid LAC™. KEM-GEST is a blend of organic and inorganic acids designed to provide an economical means to acidify swine feed. Swine producers have successfully used it for years as a solution to improve a weaned pig's ability to digest complex diets. The blend of acids in KEM-GEST provide a cost-effective solution to acidify swine diets. FORMYL is a coated source of formic acid manufactured with a proprietary process. Acidification of feed with formic acid can create a hostile environment for bacterial growth, which can lead to improved animal efficiency from the reduction of harmful bacteria. FORMYL allows for superior handling and slow release in the digestive tract to deliver optimal performance. Acid LAC is a buffered liquid acidifier for livestock and poultry drinking water used to reduce the water pH.
1Hirshfield, I. N., S. Terzulli, and C. O'Bryne. 2003. Weak organic acids: A panoply of effects on bacteria. Science Progress. 86(4):245-269.