11 February 2000

AGP removal hasnt hit growth rates

REMOVING antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) from Danish finisher diets has had little effect on growth rates.

But future weaner performance after their removal is less certain, with organic acids seeming to provide the best alternative.

Use of AGPs in finisher diets was voluntarily stopped in Denmark in March 1998. Danske Slagterier feedstuffs head, Niels Kjeldsen said average growth rates had changed little from 778g a day in 1997/98 to 786g a day in 1998/99, the first full year without AGPs. Therapeutic use of antibiotics had also remained low, he added.

But he anticipates that therapeutic antibiotic use will increase after the removal of AGPs in weaner diets this January and animal performance may suffer. A study of weaners in 150 herds by Danske Slagterier offers some clues.

"Typically, these pigs have lower weights, a larger weight variation and there is an increase in numbers requiring treatment for scour.

"Of herds monitored, a quarter reported no problems, half had a few problems solved by medication and adjustments to feeding and environment and the remaining quarter had constant problems."

Possible solutions included changing feeding practices or piglet environment, explained Mr Kjeldsen. "Reducing protein and energy and including more barley in diets helps avoid scours but reduces liveweight gain. Also producers should consider environment, keeping pens warm, dry and free from draughts."

Adding organic acids such as formic and lactic acid could also help reduce scour, he said. Trials show that these acid products have a similar effectiveness to AGPs in reducing scour treatment frequency, although they are more expensive.

Organic acids provide the best alternative to AGPs, believes Niels Kjeldsen.