April 09, 2020

Interpretive Summary: Postweaning stress on piglet health

Interpretive Summary: Changes in cecal morphology, cell proliferation, antioxidant enzyme, volatile fatty acids, lipopolysaccharide, and cytokines in piglets during the postweaning period

By: Anne Wallace

Postweaning stress negatively impacts the small bowel health of farm animals. The colon is responsible for a variety of important functions, including the absorption of water and electrolytes, and it is also home to the colonic microbiome. It is well known that colon health has systemic impacts on the wellbeing of animals, including piglets.

In this March 2020 Journal of Animal Science article, researchers evaluated the effects postweaning stress had on the large bowel health of piglets, which is not well studied. The authors hypothesized that postweaning stress would negatively impact the structure and function of the cecum in piglets, thereby negatively impacting their overall health.

The cecum of 40 piglets were evaluated in this study. Tissue samples were collected on days 0, 1, 3, 7 and 14 (postweaning) and studied for changes in morphology and function. Results found weaning to negatively and significantly impact cecum morphology in piglets transiently. Of the observed functional effects, oxidative stress increased, straining the antioxidant enzyme activity in the bowel. Bacterial LPS increased, which in turn stimulated the production of inflammatory cytokines. Volatile fatty acid production also increased during the postweaning period.

The results of this study supported the authors’ hypothesis that postweaning stress impacts the structure and function of the cecum in piglets. Ways to better understand why these changes occur and how to mitigate negative effects of the inflammatory response may help to optimize piglet health and minimize production losses. Overall, expanded studies looking at how the postweaning period impacts the intestinal health of piglets is warranted.