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As it was predicted to me last year, the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus is now officially in Europe. Already, the Irish authorities have joined their Danish counterparts in suggesting a number of measures on how to avoid bringing this disease into clean pig units. Knowing how the EU behaved in past similar situations, such guidelines will soon be universal for all EU members, and if the problem persists, they will become mandatory.
From the nutritional point of view, it appears the Danish and Irish authorities were not entirely convinced by the considerable evidence presented in the U.S. regarding the safety of animal plasma. As such, they recommend avoiding piglet feeds containing animal plasma (at least for the time being). Right or wrong, I will let others debate it. My role as a consulting nutritionist and a piglet feed manufacturer is different.
Luckily, I never used plasma in my own piglet feed business, so there is nothing I need to do there with my own products. But, there is considerable work that needs to be done with some of my consulting customers’ products. And, not surprisingly, these customers are active neither in Denmark nor Ireland, but they are looking into being prepared (EU regulations can spread faster than some diseases).
So, what do we do now? The answer is easy, and it has been clarified many years ago. Indeed, work at Iowa State University and later in many other U.S. universities demonstrated beyond any doubt that the benefit of plasma lies with its rich concentration in immunoglobulins. Such immunoglobulins, which are a natural defense mechanism against pathogens, exist naturally in milk, eggs, and, of course, blood (from which plasma is derived). Although milk contains significant amounts of immunoglobulins, these are not as strong as those found in plasma. In contrast, specifically-produced eggs contain such immunoglobulins that can perform as well as those in plasma.
Now, this is only part of the story. Other formulation adaptations need to be done, and many checks and balances need readjustment, but the technology is here. Indeed, many U.S. feed companies have already done the switch with great success. For more information, you can start at no better place than reading my last article in Feed International, Six steps to remove plasma from piglet diets.