How results from PROHEALTH are adding value for a French premix and feed company and its customers

CCPA is a premix and feed company. Our customers are mainly feed manufacturers for poultry, pig and ruminants production, operating in France, across Europe, Asia and Latin America. Innovation and market anticipation are two main pillars of our strategy. We also produce pre-starter feeds for young animals. The main areas of application of the PROHEALTH work for CCPA is relevant for pig production. PROHEALTH innovative results have been shared with our customers during our annual pig and poultry workshops. More than 400 nutritionists have attended these meetings.

«Antibiotic free» strategy for pig production

This strategy responds to a pull from a variety of stakeholders in the food chain, including the consumers. From a nutritionist point of view it leads to new questions about the relationship between nutrition and animal health. Observations conducted during the first phase of the PROHEALTH project have investigated the interaction of genetic selection, health and nutrition especially focusing on piglets at weaning. This work was conducted by INRA in collaboration with CCPA and confirmed the relevance of a specific feed formulation for the piglet, to improve its state of health after weaning (Gilbert et al 2017). On top of the improved piglet health after weaning, we addressed whether this diet would also allow pig producers to stop using antibiotics in the feed, with the aim to reduce global antibiotic usage. We also addressed whether the strategy maintained or perhaps improved the economic output of the farm. Some of these questions were assessed in another part of PROHEALTH through a retrospective epidemiological study on farmers who changed to antibiotic free diets. The outcomes of the study clearly demonstrate the long term benefit of this strategy. The study focused on risk factors associated with the implementation of antibiotic free diets in pig farms. Proper training of farmers and strict biosecurity showed to be important when using antibiotic free diets. These outcomes allowed CCPA to develop a global strategy for nutritionists and farmers that change to an antibiotics free production, offering a specific feeding program and biosecurity advice. The market implication is high for CCPA because more than 80% of our pre-starter diets are without antibiotics and zinc oxide.

Sows welfare and piglets health

The reduction of neonatal mortality is an important area of work within the PROHEALTH program. In 2004 CCPA developed a diagnostic tool for pig farms with neonatal mortality problems, based on necropsies of a high number of dead piglets. More than 10,000 piglets have been necropsied in our laboratory and gathered data was analysed in collaboration with Newcastle University. The analysis was associated with a retrospective survey of on farm practices and their relationship with neonatal mortality. This work identified 3 types of farms with different neonatal mortality profiles (Pandolfi et al. 2017). The lowest mortalities were on farms that widely supported both suckling and thermoregulation, tended not to have rules for cross-fostering of bigger piglets and did not cross-foster smaller piglets, or mainly cross-fostered them to multiparous sows. This led to an improvement of the diagnostics performed in our laboratory and of the management advice given to farmers.

Beyond the diagnosis, the work carried out by INRA in an experimental farm made possible to identify the impact of sow stress during gestation on the development of piglets and their viability at birth and in the hours that follow it (Pastorelli et al 2016; Quesnel et al. 2018). Providing toys and substrates to the sows reduced their cortisol level during gestation and improved piglet survival (see the related paper in this newsletter). These suggest that sow management during gestation could induce stress on sows with detrimental effect on piglets’ development and survival. The collaboration with INRA was an opportunity to measure biomarkers to assess pig health and stress. For example, the measure of salivary cortisol proved to be an interesting and non-invasive technique to evaluate sow stress during gestation. This work has been very well received by CCPA customers. To evaluate the field implications of these exciting results, this summer we began a large scale study on 10 commercial pig farms that have different feeding strategies. The objectives of the large scale study are to:

  • Evaluate the possibility of using the salivary cortisol dosage routinely in sow farms.
  • Measure the cortisol levels during the gestation of sows in commercial farms and compare them with observations made in the breeding farm mentioned above.
  • Identify nutritional practices and least stressful management of sows.
  • Validate the relationship between sow cortisol levels during gestation and the viability of piglets.

This work could lead to new feeding and management strategies of gestating sows that benefit both sow and piglet welfare and thereby positively affect farm productivity. 

Overall the association with PROHEALTH has led us to new strategies that could improve the efficiency on pig farms, whilst relying less heavily on antibiotic input.


Literature references:

· F. Pandolfi, S.A. Edwards, F. Robert, I. Kyriazakis (2017) Risk factors associated with the different categories of piglet perinatal mortality in French farms, Preventive Veterinary Medicine, Volume 137, Part A, 1 February 2017, Pages 1-12.

· Pastorelli H., Meunier-Salaün M.-C., Tallet C., Calvar C., Quesnel H. (2016). Effet de l’environnement des truies pendant la gestation sur leur comportement et la survie des porcelets. Journées de la Recherche Porcine, 48, 201-206.

· Hélène Gilbert, Julien Ruesche, Nelly Muller, Yvon Billon, Fabrice Robert, Laurent Roger, Lucile Montagne (2017) Réponses au sevrage de porcs de lignées divergentes pour l’efficacité alimentaire en fonction de l’aliment. Journées de la Recherche Porcine, 49, 7-12.

· Hélène Quesnel, Benoit Peuteman, Elodie Merlot, Armelle Prunier, Catherine Calvar, Fabrice Robert, Marie-Christine Meunier-Salaün (2018) Effet de l’enrichissement du milieu des truies pendant la gestation sur le stress maternel et la survie des porcelets.  Journées de la Recherche Porcine, 50