Supplementing the diets of young piglets with distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) provides an extra boost to their immune systems, according to a team of scientists at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Swine Odor and Manure Management Research Unit in Ames, IA. The ARS team includes Tom Weber, physiologist; Brian Kerr, research leader and Cherie Ziemer, microbiologist.

The research team divided weaned pigs into four groups and fed them a standard corn-soy diet or diets supplemented with DDGS, soybean hulls or citrus pulp. After one week, the researchers observed an increase in cytokine expression in the pigs’ small intestine, which they linked to DDGS consumption. Cytokines are chemical messengers that are essential for proper immune function.

This response reinforced findings of previous DDGS trials that pigs fed diets supplemented with DDGS showed reduced levels of ileitis, a common infection of the small intestine.

Kerr and others have found that adult pigs can be fed a corn-soy diet mixed with up to 40% DDGS. But piglets can only be fed a maximum level of 7.5% DDGS, because their growth may be reduced if they consume too much fiber.

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