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J Nutr. 2001 Dec;131(12):3259-65.

Development of intestinal immunoglobulin absorption and enzyme activities in neonatal pigs is diet dependent.

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  • 1Department of Animal Science and Animal Health, Division of Animal Nutrition, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, DK-1870 Frederiksberg, Denmark.


Uptake of colostrum just after birth is essential to stimulate intestinal growth and function, and in many species, including pigs, colostrum also provides immunological protection via the absorption of immunoglobulin G (IgG). In this study, intestinal growth, IgG absorptive capacity and enzyme activities were investigated in newborn pigs in response to different diets. Newborn piglets were bottle-fed porcine colostrum (PC), bovine colostrum (BC), porcine plasma (PP), porcine milk (PM), bovine colostrum containing porcine plasma (BCP) or a milk replacer (MR) every 3 h (15 mL/kg) for up to 2 d. Bovine serum albumin (BSA) was added to the diets as a macromolecule marker. The percentage of absorbed BSA just after birth was highest for piglets fed the PC diet (30-50%), lower for those fed the BC and BCP diets (23-30%) and lowest for the PP, PM and MR diet-fed piglets (7-20%, P < 0.05 relative to those fed colostrum). Porcine IgG was absorbed more efficiently than bovine IgG. Intestinal closure occurred earlier in MR and BCP piglets (within 12 h after birth) than in PC pigs. At 2 d of age, intestinal mucosal weight (+120% increase from birth) and villus morphology were similar in the PC, BCP and MR groups. All 3 groups also had increased aminopeptidase A activity compared with values at birth (+100% increase). Compared with PC pigs, the BCP group had higher sucrase and maltase activities (+50% and +200%, respectively) and lower aminopeptidase N activity (-50%, P < 0.05). Similarly, MR pigs showed elevated sucrase activity (+40%) and lowered maltase, lactase and aminopeptidase N activities (-20% to -50%, P < 0.05) compared with PC pigs. We conclude that porcine and bovine colostrum contain factors that stimulate the intestinal endocytotic and enzymatic capacity in newborn pigs. A milk replacer can produce normal gut growth, but may be inefficient in mediating normal macromolecule transport and disaccharidase activity. Bovine colostrum mixed with porcine plasma proteins may be a useful substitute for porcine colostrum in artificial rearing of newborn pigs.

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