The role of lactose in piglet nutrition is of paramount importance, with its beneficial effects on growth performance during the post-weaning period being well-documented. In early studies, the most common sources of lactose were skim milk (containing 50% lactose) and dried whey (with 70% lactose content). Today, there are a variety of dairy products that provide lactose, making it more accessible and cost-effective for piglet diets. These include crystalline lactose, sweet whey, whey permeate, milk chocolate products, skim milk powder and other lesser-known by-products.
Pigs less than 8-weeks old have limited ability to efficiently utilize starch in their diets, although their starch-digesting enzymes can be induced with dietary substrate. Weaning stress, often coupled with low feed intake, can delay the maturation of their digestive systems. For this reason, simple sugars, such as lactose, and hydrolyzed starch are generally more digestible than raw starch. Consequently, it is widely accepted that piglets benefit from readily digestible carbohydrates until their digestive systems become more mature. Diets based on cereals and vegetable protein sources show improved growth performance when supplemented with milk products like dried whey and skim milk. Inclusion of 10-20% dried whey in simple diets (comprising maize, soybean meal, and fishmeal) consistently enhances growth performance by at least 15% in pigs weaned at three weeks of age.
The role of lactose in piglet nutrition can be summarized as follows:
In addition to pure lactose, sweet dried whey and whey permeate are common sources of lactose used in pre-weaning and post-weaning piglet diets. Alternatives to lactose, such as simple sugars like sucrose, dextrose, and glucose, can be considered while maintaining the concept of “Lactose equivalent” to ensure performance isn’t compromised. Corn syrup is an excellent lactose alternative as it can be readily utilized as an energy source by young pigs, and unlike sucrose, it is not toxic to neonatal pigs.
Dietary specifications for lactose concentration in piglet diets suggest the following:
While responses to lactose can vary due to factors like basal diet composition, genetics, environment, and health conditions, most experiments report similar lactose requirements for nursery pigs.
Whether you require pure lactose, sweet whey powder, whey permeate, skim milk powder, or specialty formulated milk replacers, Lam Tak can provide the solutions you need to optimize piglet nutrition and growth. Contact us today!
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