Before weaning and also during the rearing period (grower phase), piglets, calves and small ruminants are often affected by disease entities accompanied by fluid loss (dehydration). Although these conditions can be managed easily in most cases, still a relative high percentage of the total mortality can be brought into association with them. Even if death due to diarrhoeal diseases can be prevented, the dehydration caused by diarrhoea can markedly reduce the growth rate of animals, thus causing substantial economic losses to the farms.
Diarrhoea can lead to the loss of a substantial amount of water, sometimes reaching 10% of the animals’ body weight, in a single day (Naylor, 1989). Together with the water, a substantial quantity of electrolytes also leaves the body. In addition to posing the risk of dehydration, a water loss of such an extent may negatively affect numerous physiological processes because of the electrolyte depletion.
The most important electrolytes occurring in the fluid spaces of the body are Na+, K+, Mg2+, Ca2+, HCO3– and Cl– ions. Both the concentration and the composition of these ions are different between the intracellular and the extracellular water spaces, only the sum of the particles of positive and negative charge are the same.
While the intracellular water space and the electrolytes contained by it serve as the site of vital biochemical reactions, the extracellular fluid space constitutes the direct environment of the cells, providing the latter with the conditions necessary for their functioning. Precisely for this reason, the loss of large amounts of water and electrolytes may result in numerous metabolic disturbances (e.g. metabolic acidosis, decrease of the blood glucose level, disturbances of transport processes through the cell membranes, enzyme activity decreases), which, irrespective of their eliciting cause, can only be eliminated by rehydration and electrolyte supplementation, i.e. by the restoration of electrolyte balance.
Therefore, the animals should be carefully observed for signs indicative of the extent of dehydration caused by diarrhoea (e.g. depression, sunken eyes, reduced skin turgor, cold extremities). Diarrhoea alone, without other clinical signs, can cause a dehydration of 5–6%, while with the appearance of other clinical signs the extent of this dehydration and the risk of development of secondary pathological entities may increase rapidly.
The eliciting cause of diarrhoeal diseases is often difficult to determine, as infectious agents (viruses, bacteria, parasites) and non-infectious factors (management and feeding conditions) may equally play a role in their aetiology.
Calves are most susceptible to the different diarrhoeal diseases in the first 3–4 weeks of their life. As in that period their immune system is not fully mature (Figure 1), special attention should be paid to eliminating the eliciting cause and treating the clinical signs. Figure 1 clearly shows that in this period it is extremely important to supply the animals with a sufficient quantity of high-quality colostrum and to provide them with a clean and hygienic environment and an accommodation meeting their requirements (e.g. adequate ventilation, lack of draught, etc.).
Figure 1: Evolution of the passive and active immunity of calves in the first few weeks of life
Source: Heinrichs and Jones (2003)
Passive immunity Active immunity
(colostrum) (immune system)
Day 1 Day 14
In the first days of life, newborn calves most often get diarrhoea as a result of E. coli infection, while diarrhoea caused by Clostridium perfringens typically occurs between 5 and 10 days of age. Diarrhoea due to viruses and cryptosporidia typically develops from 2 weeks of age, while Salmonella usually causes a diarrhoeal disease from the third week and coccidia from the fourth week of life (Wattiaux, 2003).
In calves, diarrhoea of nutritional origin is most frequently caused by the feeding of too much or poor-quality calf milk replacer, or possibly a sudden change in the nutrient content of the milk replacer. It is important to pay attention to the proper temperature of the milk replacer (36–38 °C), as the feeding of too cold or too warm milk replacer can equally cause diarrhoea.
In pigs, the risk of development of preweaning and postweaning diarrhoea is markedly increased by inadequate hygiene, the incorrect co-mingling of the piglets and the high stocking density (overcrowding). Good feed hygiene is essential, but it is also crucial to ensure that the nutrient content of the diet meets the physiological requirements of the piglets. For example, the feeding of a diet of excessive carbohydrate content may cause fermentative dyspepsia resulting in the excretion of yellowish, dilute faeces. Protein intake exceeding the animals’ requirements leads to putrefactive dyspepsia resulting in the development of diarrhoea characterised by the excretion of watery, reddish-brown faeces.
The most common pathogens causing infectious diseases associated with diarrhoea in piglets are summarised in Table 1.
Table 1: Pathogens most commonly causing diarrhoea in piglets
|Escherichia coli||TGEv||Isospora suis|
|Clostridium perfringens C||PEDv||Cryptosporidium parvum|
|Clostridium perfringens A||Rotavirus|
Irrespective of whether the diarrhoea is disease-related or caused by a nutritional problem or stress, besides eliminating and treating the eliciting cause it is essential to rehydrate the animals and provide them with electrolyte supplementation. The Crémolit electrolyte supplement provides a solution for the management of these problems. Owing to its optimal composition, in addition to containing the necessary electrolytes it also supplies the piglets, calves and small ruminants with an easily absorbable energy source. The probiotics contained by the product help restore the healthy intestinal microflora, while its vitamins and organic trace minerals support the general health and the immune system of the animals.
In addition to management and nutritional anomalies, stress (e.g. transport, feed change, heat stress, etc.) may also cause diarrhoea, although diarrhoea caused by stress typically ceases when the stress factor responsible for it is eliminated.
Product Development Engineer
Dr. Attila Tanai
Director of Development
Pegavit – a feed additive for horses
The generally used feeds of our horses – the forages and the concentrates – do not contain mineral macro- and microelements, trace minerals and vitamins in quantities necessary for the animals. In Hungary there are areas deficient in certain microelements and the keeping conditions of horses are not always optimal, and therefore in such cases it is important to supplement these elements. Supplementation of the horse feeds with these substances is essential for preserving the overall health of horses. Special attention should be paid to competition and work horses as well as mares and their newborn foals in order to prevent vitamin deficiencies and the related diseases and to support robustness.
In horses participating in competitions and training, the stress caused by transport and competition conditions is a natural response of the body, resulting in diminished appetite and, consequently, in a reduced intake of essential nutrients. In addition, the muscles of horses subject to increased exercise load must be provided a possibility to regenerate.
Diseases and stress factors decrease the appetite at times when there would be the greatest need for a balanced feed intake and an adequate vitamin, macro- and microelement supplementation.
In addition to regulating the calcium metabolism (bone and muscle growth), the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E support the immune response and the activity of the immune system, and are essential for ensuring the health of the epithelial tissues.
Of the water-soluble vitamins, vitamin C has a role in antioxidant activity, adipocyte metabolism and in the growth and preservation of tissues. Biotin, which is one of the vitamin B group, is well known to support the junction of cells constituting the horny structures, thus helping to avoid the occurrence of hoof problems.
Zinc (Zn) plays an important role in the formation of connective tissues and the integument. Its deficiency results in reduced epithelial growth and injuries.
Copper (Cu) is important for normal cartilage development, for the transformation of cartilage into bone, for tendon development, for the strength and flexibility of the blood vessels, for fertility and for the prevention of anaemia. Copper deficiency may result in arthritis, shrinkage of the flexor tendons, infertility of mares, increased vulnerability of older mares at the time of foaling, anaemia and pigment deficiency of the skin around the eyes and lips.
Horses need selenium for the maintenance of their normal muscle function and immune system. Selenium participates in the detoxification of substances toxic to cell membranes.
The Pegavit feed additive has been developed to provide sufficient quantities of macroelements, microelements and vitamins for the maintenance of health of horses fed oats and meadow hay, for the prevention of deficiency syndromes, for the regeneration of muscles and for facilitating recovery from stress situations.
During Pegavit supplementation it is important to feed adequate forages and concentrates and to give salt supplementation in the form of salt licks.
The effect of nutrition on the skin colour of broiler chickens
Colour has a very important role in the animal kingdom and also regarding its effect on the sensory organs of humans. Ninety percent of perception in humans occurs through the eyes, but visual perception has great significance in animals as well. This statement expressly applies to galliform birds, as their sensory organs other than vision are less developed. For this reason, the odour and taste of the feed have only secondary importance in these birds, because of the deficient olfactory and gustatory capacity.
The colour of feathers is especially important in Galliformes: the bright red comb of cockerels serves for attracting the attention of the other sex or for deterring the rivals. Thus the colours also serve for facilitating reproduction.
Colour and appearance have decisive importance for humans in food selection. Nowadays the yellow chicken is preferred in certain markets, among others in Croatia where white chickens are almost unsaleable. In traditional maize-growing areas rural people have a negative attitude to chickens of white skin colour, and for them the yellow colour of the feet is a very important quality criterion when buying chickens. This applies to the consumer preferences regarding table eggs, where – in addition to the size and shape of the eggs – the colour of the egg yolk is a very important parameter influencing purchase decisions. For example, if the yolk of an egg does not contain enough pigment, the customers deem it to be of poorer quality.
In Galliformes, carotenoids are responsible for the colour of the egg yolk, the skin, the feet, the comb and, partially, the skin. The birds cannot synthesise carotenoids on their own, and have to take them up with their feed. Caroteinoids occur in many different sources in nature, thus also in the raw materials of the poultry feeds. In poultry feeds, the most important carotenoid source are maize and certain by-products of maize processing. Green vegetable meals made from alfalfa and grass also contain substantial quantities of natural pigments. Natural carotenoid content greatly depends on the variety and growth conditions of the cultured plant, the time of harvest and the storage conditions. Not all carotenoids (e.g. lycopene in tomato, beta-carotene) influence pigmentation.
The natural pigment content of the feed is not sufficient for making products that meet the customers’ demands. If we want to achieve the skin and egg yolk colour considered desirable by the consumer, we have to supplement the feed with pigments. We can select natural or artificial yellow and red pigments, which must be used on their own or in combination to achieve the desired egg yolk and broiler skin colour (Table 1).
Table 1: Main feed additives suitable for use as pigment supplements
The absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids is influenced by the fat content of the diet. The use of long-chain polyunsaturated and short-chain saturated fatty acids has a positive effect on the incorporation of carotenoids; however, the use of long-chain saturated fatty acids must be avoided. Carotenoids are fat-soluble substances and move together with fats in birds; precisely this is why they are highly sensitive to oxidation. Oxidised fatty acids enter into reaction with carotenoid-type substances in the feed as well as in the digestive tract, and partially destroy the latter. The presence of oxidised fats can markedly reduce the incorporation of pigment substances. When speaking about the oxidation of fats, we must mention the antioxidants, as they are capable of stopping the oxidative processes and, thus, the fats can keep their quality for a longer time. A study has shown that antioxidants are active in the intestinal tract as well; thus, when administered in water-soluble form, they are effective also in birds. When added to the diet, tocopherol derivatives have a beneficial effect on pigmentation. The high calcium content of the diet has a negative impact on both pigmentation and egg yolk colour. The calcium content of the diets must be adjusted to the optimum level in order to prevent the above negative effect. The administration of high-dose vitamin A also disturbs the absorption of carotenoids, potentially resulting in inadequate egg yolk and skin pigmentation. In birds, pigmentation may be adversely affected by the high barley and/or wheat content of the diet, because of the non-starch polysaccharides contained by these plants. The administration of feed enzymes (beta-glucanase, xylanase) may have a positive effect on egg yolk and skin pigmentation. Pigment substances are sensitive to heat, and thus the heat generated during the feed manufacturing process (granulation, expansion) may decrease the pigment content.
Poor health status and diseases debilitating the birds have a marked negative effect on the incorporation of carotenoids. Bacterial infections and the antibiotic treatment of diseases may also adversely affect pigmentation.
In order to achieve the desired skin colour of broiler chickens, not only the administered pigment supplementation but also the factors influencing the utilisation and incorporation of carotenoids must be taken into consideration. The broiler diets contain approx. 15–20 mg natural yellow pigment on average, and therefore usually additional yellow pigment supplementation is needed for achieving the desirable yellow skin colour. In addition, in regions where the consumers prefer broilers with a stronger yellow or even orange-yellow skin colour, a small amount of red pigment must also be added to the diet. The use of the necessary pigment substances must be started at least 3 weeks before slaughter.
Bonafarm-Bábolna Feed Ltd. has abundant experience in the nutrition of broiler chickens with a skin colour meeting both the special Hungarian and the export markets. In order to meet the consumer demands and achieve the desired skin colour of broilers, the most important factor is to feed diets of controlled quality, each and every pellet or grain of which contains pigments of adequate quantity and form at the optimum time.
Results exceeding an EPEF of 400 with the upgraded Gold broiler diets!
Recently we have upgraded and renewed our broiler diet ranges again. The main objective of this development was to ensure high body weight gain and the most favourable feed conversion ratio after 28 days of age, when broilers start to grow intensively and have a higher feed intake. In the first phases, we improved the digestibility of the protein sources used and supported the healthy development of solid skeletal structure. We have made more substantial improvements in the grower II and the finisher phases, where we increased the energy content of the diets on the basis of many years’ experience and the production results collected over the years.
The first large-scale feeding of the renewed diets was started on the Andrea Henzer-Czigány’s broiler farm in Dad. This farm was chosen as the producer had been our partner for several years, and because the precisely kept production records and the existence of silo scales made it possible to do daily data evaluations.
The first experimental batch was placed on 19 December 2017. A total of 15,015 Ross 308 day-old chicks were placed with a stocking density of 19 chicks/m2. During the rearing of this batch there were no major animal health problems. The broilers continuously met the body weight gain objectives specified in the technology, from week to week! This first experimental cycle was closed at 38 days of rearing with an average body weight of 2.51 kg and with a feed conversion ratio of 1.59 kg/kg.
The second experimental batch was placed on 5 February 2018 with chick numbers and a stocking density similar to the previous batch. The start of this cycle was rather bumpy, with a high number of non-viable chicks, chicks of reduced vitality or infected by E. coli. As a result of this, the broilers did not reach the technological target weights up to 28 days of age; however, subsequently the flock could compensate its initially poorer growth. This cycle was closed at 40 days of rearing, with an average body weight of 2.63 kg and a feed conversion ratio of 1.54 kg/kg.
The broiler index (European Poultry Efficiency Factor) was higher than 400 in both cycles!