Reducing dietary CP with crystalline AA supplementation has been proposed as a nutritional strategy to control post-weaning diarrhea in response to global concerns about negative effects of sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics. One hundred eighty weaned pigs (5.53 ± 0.88 kg) were randomly allotted to 3 treatments with 12 replicate pens per treatment for 28 d. Treatments included antibiotic-free, corn-soybean meal diets containing 22% and 19% CP, adequate in AA, and a 16% CP diet that provided AA below the requirement. Daily feed provisions and pig weights were recorded weekly. Fecal scores were assessed every other day. Blood samples were collected on d 1, 6, 13, 20, and 27 and 1 pig per pen was euthanized on d 12. Data for growth performance, fecal scores, and intestinal pH were analyzed by contrast statements and data for blood characteristics were analyzed using repeated measures. Results indicated that reducing dietary CP linearly (P ≤ 0.05) reduced overall ADG, G:F, body weight, and fecal scores of pigs. Reduction in dietary CP resulted in greater reduction in BUN after d 13 (treatment × day interaction, P ≤ 0.05). Total protein, albumin, and vitamin A and E in serum were lowest (P ≤ 0.05) on d 13, and pigs fed 16% CP had reduced (P ≤ 0.05) albumin compared with pigs fed other diets. The pH in the ileum was reduced (P ≤ 0.05) as dietary CP decreased but pH in the colon of pigs fed 19% CP was the lowest (P < 0.05) at d 13.
In conclusion, reducing CP to 19% and 16% in antibiotic-free diets for weanling pigs reduces fecal score without impairing the growth performance during the first 14 d after weaning. However, additional strategies are needed to maintain growth performance during the next two weeks.