Intact brown seaweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) in diets of weaned piglets: effects on performance, gut bacteria and morphology and plasma oxidative status


J. Michiels, Faculty of Biosciences and Landscape Architecture, University College Ghent, Schoonmeersstraat 52, 9000 Ghent, Belgium. Tel: +32 9 2488863; Fax: +32 9 2424279; E-mail:


The aim was to assess the effects of intact dried Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed on piglet performances, gut bacteria and function and plasma oxidative status. A total of 160 weaned piglets (21 days, 6.59 ± 0.91 kg) were allocated to four dietary treatments with eight pen replicates of five animals each for 28 days: a control diet; based on cereals, soybean meal and milk products, and three basal diets supplemented with either 2.5, 5.0 or 10.0 g dried seaweed per kg. At day 12/13 one piglet from each pen was sacrificed. Plasma samples were taken to determine parameters of oxidative status. Digesta were sampled for microbiological plate countings onto selective media and molecular analysis using PCR-DGGE. Small intestinal tissue was taken for morphological and electro-physiological determinations. Data were analysed by a linear model with treatment as fixed effect. A. nodosum supplementation had no effect on daily weight gain, nor did it alter feed conversion ratio. Plate countings failed to reveal differences among treatments. Dendograms prepared using PCR-DGGE banding patterns did not indicate clustering of microbial profiles based on diet supplement. Plasma oxidative status and outcome of morphology and of electro-physiological measurements from gut tissues were similar for all treatments. Thus, the addition of A. nodosum seaweed to well digestible diets did not enhance performances of piglets nor some gut health parameters and plasma oxidative status.