Potassium diformate (KDF) is a specifically conjugated acid double-salt, patented by ADDCON and traded as FORMI on the European and world-market. Potassium diformate has been approved in the European Union as a non-antibiotic growth promoter for use in diets for piglets, growing-finishing pigs and in sows. It was also registered as the first replacement for in-feed antibiotics world-wide. Previously, in the first part of this series, we discussed the effects of KDF fed to sows on their feed intake, nutrient digestibility and their body condition from gestation to weaning. It has also been found that the use of Formi in sows has a beneficial impact on growth performance of their piglets, as discussed here.
Potassium diformate (FORMI; KDF) is been used in feed for growing piglets, fattening pigs and sows - thereby covering the whole pig production chain, where the product acts as an acidifier and as an antibacterial agent. The antibacterial effect is based on the stability of the molecule and its strong antimicrobial effect against harmful bacteria in the lower parts of digestive tract (mainly Gram-negative bacteria).
Øverland et al. (2008) described the effect of KDF in the diet of reproducing sows, especially on performance of sows and litters, where adding KDF to diets for sows had a positive effect on sow’s backfat thickness in gestation, milk composition and on growth performance of piglets. Further studies also reported improved piglet performance from birth, through improved microbial conditions at farrowing and sow milk output, which is directly correlated to sows’ feed intake from farrowing onwards.
The antimicrobial effect of KDF on the harmful microflora in the intestinal tract of sows (mainly Enterobacteria) improves the gut health of the individuals themselves. It also acts positively on the number of Lactobacilli in sows and piglets (Øverland et al., 2008). This is another important parameter for the health of the new-born piglets, since with the use of KDF, the numbers of E. coli in the faeces of sows is significantly reduced by 90% (Table 1), which positively affects the health of the new-born piglets (Hittel and Lückstädt, 2017).
Table 1: Reduction of E.coli in faeces of sows fed with or without FORMI in the lactation diet (Hittel and Lückstädt, 2017)
Furthermore, Øverland et al. (2008) found an increase in the fat concentration of sow milk starting from the twelfth day after farrowing in sows fed with KDF (Figure 1), potentially due to the improved digestibility parameters, as reported previously.
Figure 1: Impact of FORMI on milk fat content of sows during lactation (Øverland et al., 2008)
When working with new-born piglets, it is important to look at several factors that influence and determine their subsequent performance, which will be directly reflected in the success of the overall pig production. The first contact with the outside environment is the most important. The most common causes of the death of piglets after farrowing is a lack of energy due to the inadequate amount of colostrum, and diarrhoea due to infection with harmful bacteria (mainly E.coli) from their environment (usually from the sow’s faeces). FORMI can reduce the threat of direct infection via the sow faeces as shown in Table 1. Piglets are also born with low energy reserves (Mellor and Cockburn, 1986; Theil et al., 2014) and lack immunoglobulins (Bourne, 1969). Therefore, it is vital importance that they ingest adequate amounts of colostrum to provide enough energy and passive immunity to ensure their survival and development (Le Dividich et al., 2005; Quesnel et al., 2012). Lückstädt et al. (2012) reported that due to the use of 0.8% KDF in the lactation diet of sows, the number of weaned piglets tended (P<0.1) to be increased, while on the other hand the losses during the weaning period were significantly (P<0.05) reduced by 50%. Using KDF in sow’s feed before and during lactation has shown a positive effect in new-born piglets. The addition of dietary diformate in sow diets led to higher birth-weights of piglets (Lückstädt et al., 2017). During lactation, piglets from KDF-fed sows tend to have a higher average daily gain (Figure 2), which resulted in significantly increased litter weights at weaning. Piglets are noticeably healthier and there are no problems with diarrhoea in the first days after farrowing, since the number of bacteria in the faeces of sows is reduced and the environment into which the piglets are born is therefore “healthier”.
Figure 2: Daily weight gain of piglets during lactation of sows fed with or without FORMI (Landkildehus, KFK, Denmark, 2001)
The growth-promoting impact of 0.8% dietary KDF in the lactation diet of sows was further confirmed by Durst et al. (2012), who found significantly increased weight gains during weaning by almost 8%, with lower backfat losses for the sow (67%).
Supplementing sow lactation-diets with KDF leads to increased milk fat content, higher birth weights and weaning weights of piglets. KDF supplemented diets also positively affect the microbial population in the gastro-intestinal tract of the sows and thus provided a healthier environment for the new-born piglets, which leads to higher survival rates till weaning. It is therefore highly recommended to regularly use potassium diformate - traded as FORMI (ADDCON) in the lactation diet of sows - to not only improve the overall condition of the sow, but also to have an positive impact on survival and performance of their piglets, leading to a higher number of weaned piglets and an overall increase in litter weaning weight. This may be of further importance, since it is known that weaning weights of +300 g lead to a reduction of the fattening period of 3-4 days, which will further help the economy of pig fattening.
It is therefore highly recommended to regularly use FORMI (ADDCON) in the lactation diets of sows - to not only improve the overall condition of the sow, but also to have an positive impact on the suckling piglets, and thus the overall pig production.