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Clay-fortified feed could help optimize pig diets

Natural minerals found in clay could help optimize the quality of pig feed by helping to manage the effects of nutritional imbalances in the gut.

Writing in WATTAgNet, nutritionist Ioannis Mavromichalis said that bentonite, a mineral clay found all over the world, could have a number of applications in monogastric diets when used to fortify feed.

The clay contains silicon dioxide (earth) and aluminum, but it has two main classes — sodium bentonite and calcium bentonite — which could be of particular interest to pig producers.

Sodium bentonite

The main characteristic of sodium bentonite is that it expands and absorbs water, meaning it could be used as a ‘sponge’ on the gut to absorb excess moisture created during digestion.

This can happen due to pathological disturbances, such as bacterial diarrhea, or nutritional imbalances, such as osmotic diarrhea. In either case, it helps control digesta moisture and, along with other additives, can prevent or alleviate the symptoms of watery fecal matter in pigs.

Calcium bentonite

Meanwhile, calcium bentonite is a useful adsorbent of ions, which means it can help to bind ionic particles such as trace minerals, as well as some mycotoxins. It is one of the most widely used additives in controlling aflatoxin contamination, Mavromichalis noted.

When using calcium bentonite as an aflatoxin binder, care should be taken to ensure diets are well fortified with all possible ionic compounds that can be bound by calcium bentonite.

It is important to be aware of some side effects, including laxative properties, so a moderate inclusion rate could be better than a higher one, Mavromichalis added.

“I have used up to 2% bentonite in many commercial feeds without any troubles, but I am always aware of the possible side effects. When I start new, I prefer to use only 1% as my upper limit.”

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