Weaning is an inevitable early life stressor in commercial production that can cause an immediate reduction in voluntary feed intake and growth during a critical period of gastrointestinal development. Further, the reduction in voluntary feed intake is strongly correlated with the risk of disease during that period. Therefore, our objective was to test the effect of different dietary interventions on early nursery pig feed intake, performance, fecal consistency, and histological parameters. Over 2 repetitions, a total of 90 newly weaned gilts (19-21 d of age, BW 5.62 ± 1.1 kg) were selected, individually penned and randomly assigned to 1 of 5 dietary treatments (n = 18 pigs/trt) that included: 1) Control diet (CON), 2) CON + 5% sugar beet pulp (BP), 3) CON + 10% high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), 4) CON + 5% soyhulls (SH), or 5) CON + 3,000 ppm Zn and 200 ppm Cu (d 0-7), and 2,000 ppm Zn and 200 ppm Cu (d 8-14; ZC). Each repetition was conducted over a 14-d period consisting of 2 phases (phase 1: d 0-7, phase 2: d 8-14). Pigs were all sourced from a natural endemic enteric pathogen positive nursery flow and confirmed positive for rotavirus, coccidia and F18 E. coli. Fecal consistency was scored and feed disappearance was recorded daily. On d 0, 7 and 14, pig BWs were collected. Weekly feed disappearance and BWs were used to calculate ADG, ADFI and feed efficiency (G:F) within phase and overall. On d 14, all pigs were euthanized, and fixed sections of ileum and colon were collected to assess histopathology including incidence of villus atrophy and colitis. Pig was the experimental unit, and performance and histology data were analyzed by dietary treatment. Daily measures of feed intake were analyzed by repeated measures with the fixed effects of diet, day, and their interaction. Starting body weight did not differ across dietary treatments (P = 0.845). Over the 14-d test period, HFCS and ZC treatments tended to increase ADG (0.20 and 0.15 kg/d, respectively) compared to CON, BP and SH (0.09, 0.12, and 0.13 kg/d, respectively; P = 0.076). Further, the addition of a sweetener (HFCS) did not improve daily feed intake, while SH reduced daily feed intakes by 32% compared to all other treatments (P < 0.001). Although all pigs had some degree of diarrhea, fecal consistency did not differ between dietary treatments (P= 0.618). Histopathology scoring for intestinal atrophy (ileum) and colitis (colon) were not different (P = 0.645 and 0.440, respectively).
In conclusion, the addition of BP, HFCS, SH and ZC had an effect on growth and feed intake but there was no benefit in atrophy, colitis, and fecal scores when encountering a natural enteric pathogen burden.