AB Neo has embarked on a research project with Bristol University to confirm the mode of action of Axcelera-P, its accelerator for pigs. Axcelera-P is proven to deliver lifetime performance in pigs when offered to piglets from day four to weaning.

Paul Toplis, AB Neo's Technical Director (Swine) said, "Although feed intakes are not significantly different compared to the top-selling successful creep feeds, the effects of Axcelera-P are profound in delivering lifetime performance through every stage from nursery to finisher and by reducing pre-weaning mortality. These two commercially relevant factors and their significantly positive effects on ROI have made the new accelerator technology of worldwide interest to pig farmers."

Consistent performance has been seen in ongoing AB Neo research through academic and farm trials confirm that Axcelera-P is a significant breakthrough in pig performance. Consequently, AB Neo knows, through repeated trials and over three years commercial sales in the UK, what the repeatable and predictable effect is on pigs and how to achieve it, but it is unclear exactly why Axcelera-P works as it does.

Because of its step-change in performance (not the incremental improvement seen in nutritional improvement trials) and how it appears to switch on a pig at such an early age, AB Neo doesn't expect to find a conventional mode of action (such as is seen when simply offering more or improved nutrition). However, it is clear that the significant positive change is happening in the neonatal pig.

Studies in humans and in laboratory rodents have suggested that early-life events can have long-term effects on intestinal microbiota (gut micro-organisms), their interaction with the animal's metabolism and the expression of the appropriate immune response in protecting the animal and relating to food tolerances. AB Neo believes this is also true of neonatal pigs. The idea that dietary manipulation of the neonatal intestinal environment has such long-term programming effects is the basis for the accelerator category.

To identify its mode of action, AB Neo is working closely with Bristol University, whose world-leading expertise focuses on answering interesting scientific questions relating to gut microbiota and performance.

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The collaborative research is focusing on three areas

Microbiota . Investigating the extent to which the early diet in piglets programs long-term changes in composition and function of intestinal microbiota. Specifically, to what extent does early-life diet influence the succession (rather than short-term composition) of microbial communities.

Metabolomics . Investigating the extent to which the diet and microbiota program long-term effects on the developing metabolic system of the piglets. Specifically, are these also only manipulable early in life, or can they be manipulated later? To what extent are pathways involving breakdown, absorption and energy/protein/lipid metabolism affected? By comparing metabolomics in accelerated and unaccelerated (control) piglets we will be able to find any causal links on performance.

Immune System . Investigating the extent to which diet, microbiota and metabolism program long-term effects on the piglet immune system. Specifically, do they change the cost-benefit ratio for expression of immune responses to acute, clinical pathogens; to subclinical infections; and to harmless commensal bacteria and diet. One view is that there may be an effect on a pig's immune response to specific ingredients in a starter feed, which then affects the way they respond the first time they are encountered by the pig after weaning. By reducing unnecessary, intolerance-related immune response the pig has more available energy for growth, and nutrient partitioning may be favourably influenced towards production.

Toplis continued, "Our work with Bristol University is very exciting and we are confident that, by working with pigs whose performance has been accelerated, we have a strong probability of identifying the specific mode of action. We can then improve the mode of action further, seek more efficient and cost effective ways to create the accelerator effect, and start work on accelerating other species."