Wood is a natural source of lignocellulose.

to use standardised, quality proven and sanitised prod- ucts from wood-derived lignocellulose. In general, fibre is considered in the context of

avoiding constipation; however, depending on the quality, lignocellu- lose has the ability to offer more than that.

Quality of lignocellulose Current commercially available lignocellulose

products can be classified into two categories based on their effects in the gastrointestinal tract. As purely insoluble fibre concentrate, lignocellulose prod-

ucts differ highly in their grade of fermentability and thus can affect the animals’ digestive tract via one of the two following effects.

Physical effects Due to its indigestible and non-fermentable fibre content, lignocellulose optimises the consistency of sow faeces, affect- ing constipation around farrowing. Here, excessively hard fae- ces create an additional physical barrier (in addition to the al- ready extremely precarious lack of visceral space) and press on the birth canal. Due to its structure-giving properties, lignocel- lulose provides for an easily deformable consistency of the fae- ces. It also enhances the peristaltic activity of the gut, further facilitating the passage of the piglets through the birth canal.

Physiological effects Lignocellulose products that contain insoluble and non-fer- mentable fibre as well as a portion of insoluble but fermenta- ble fibre give rise to both physical and physiological benefits. The fermentable portion is broken down by microbes in the colon, resulting in the formation of lactic acid and butyric acid. Butyric acid in turn is a valuable source of energy for colonocytes. Consequently, the animal is better supplied with energy

Figure 1 - Duration of farrowing process (in minutes) depending on the feeding regime.

900 750 600 450 300 150 0

Lignocellulose* * OptiCell, Agromed. Control

through the absorption of butyric acid than untreated control animals. The sow can receive up to 25% of her maintenance energy requirement from the fermentation of dietary fibre in the colon. The energy from the enzymatic digestion in the small intestine is available up to five hours after ingestion, while the fermentation products from the colon are provided over a period of 24 hours. For the sow, this extra energy means reduced hunger and stress and, above all, more ener- gy for the birthing process. This increased energy supply available over a longer time period has a strong influence on the duration of the farrowing length.

Turning theory to practice In 2019, an Austrian swine producer experienced the differ- ence. Simply by supplementing lignocellulose (OptiCell, Agromed) as an insoluble fibre carrier with fermentable and non-fermentable components to the gestating feed, the en- tire birth process per sow was shortened by an average of more than 62 minutes compared to the untreated control group. That means that the critical phase of the birth process that every piglet had to go through was three minutes and 21 seconds shorter. Moreover, that reduced parturition length was accompanied by an increase of the number of live-born piglets from an average of 16.7 to 17.6. If the total litter size is included in the comparison, the lignocellulose treatment in- creased the relative proportion of live-born piglets from 88.8% to 95.1%.

Effective nutritional tool The farrowing duration of sows is closely related to the pro- portion of live-born piglets, colostrum yield, piglet perfor- mance and the sow’s fertility for the next cycle. A proper se- lection of the lignocellulose product added to a sow’s gestating diet can help to achieve a faster birth process by optimising gut functions and improving the sow’s energy supply. One of the most effective nutritional tools is the inclu- sion of a quality, insoluble dietary fibre consisting of both fermentable and non-fermentable components.

Figure 2 - Number of live-born piglets per litter depending on the feeding regime.

30 25 20 15 10 5 0

Lignocellulose* * OptiCell, Agromed. ▶PIG PROGRESS | Volume 36, No. 3, 2020 23 Control

References upon request

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