Feed tech platform part of ‘new toolbox’ for swine production that supports optimal results with or without use of antibiotics

As Canadian swine producers continue to strengthen their operations for the future, one of the most promising opportunities is to take advantage of technology that has proven itself in Europe.

One of the best examples is Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA) feed technology.

“This is a powerful innovation that not only boosts profitability but also meets today’s new industry standards and marketplace expectations – giving producers a much-needed new option in the toolbox,” says Europe-based MCFA expert and veterinarian Dr. Fokko Aldershoff.

Here are five things to know:

1. Unique form of fatty acids

MCFA are a unique form of fatty acids found naturally in a variety of sources as a component of triglycerides.

There are four main types of MCFA – caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid and lauric acid. Although commonly associated with coconut oil, MCFA are more predominant in other places in nature such as goat’s milk (this is reflected in the word “capra” which means “goat” in Latin).

MCFA have a molecular structure of 6, 8, 10 or 12 carbon length chains, which differentiates them from short-chain fatty acids (less than 6 carbon length chains) and long-chain fatty acids (greater than 12 carbon length chains).

This structure affords MCFA unique mobility and activity in their interaction with and influence upon other molecules and microbes – enabling their capacity for use as a tool for supporting swine production when provided as a feed additive.

2. Optimzing health and performance

MCFA offer a fresh approach to enhance swine diets and support integrated swine management strategies designed to optimize animal health and performance across all key phases of production including transportation of animals.

This technology is well established in Europe where it has a strong track record and reputation as a commonly used feed additive option, and has helped production systems sustain or optimize animal wellness and performance while they successfully transition toward a reduction or removal of the use of antibiotics.

However, while MCFA have seen major gains in adoption in North America in recent years, the understanding of the role and potential benefits of this technology are still relatively new to many across the industry.

3. New option for Canadian production

This science has developed the latest generation MCFA options – led by Biotica feed technology in Canada. This leading type of patented MCFA used for commercial feed additive purposes presents the MCFA in a form that is unbranched and “free” with no double bonds or ring structures. This makes them highly maneuverable and active immediately.

Much of the science and commercial development exploring the benefits of MCFA for feed additive use has focused on understanding and supporting the capacity of MCFA as a functional feed ingredient with a role in influencing gut wellness and morphology.

4. Supporting gut health – key to success

The wellness and morphology of the gastrointestinal tract of swine, which is a highly complex microbial environment influenced by microbes both present and ingested, is increasingly recognized as participating in the overall health and performance of the animals.

The swine gut environment has an impact on the digestibility and absorption of nutrients, influencing everything from feed efficiency to daily gain and other key production parameters. It also has an influence on susceptibility to a variety of stressors which can impact performance and health. These are challenges which can come in a number of forms, for example, from heat or contaminants.

5. Meeting today’s needs

The latest research indicates leading MCFA options are beneficial in key phases of the swine life cycle and can support production systems regardless of whether or not those systems involve use of antimicrobials.

Because MCFA are considered naturally occurring and a bio-based feed additive ingredient, they also fit the type of input increasingly preferred and well accepted in the current and future marketplace.

The bottom line for producers and industry is that MCFA technology increasingly represents a key option as part of a ‘new toolbox’ for 21st century swine production, says Dr. Aldershoff. “This can help support optimal results with or without use of antibiotics.”