Benzoic acid in nursery diets increases the performance from weaning to finishing by reducing diarrhoea and improving the intestinal morphology of piglets inoculated with Escherichia coli K88+

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A total of 224 weaned pigs (DanBred sows x PIC 337 sires) with an average body weight (BW) of 6.37 ± 0.34 kg (21 days of age) were used to evaluate how different levels of benzoic acid fed to weaning pigs orally inoculated with Escherichia coli (K88+) affected the nursing and grow-finishing performance, the physicochemical properties of the intestine, the volatile fatty acid concentration in the caecum and the incidence of diarrhoea. Pigs were randomly allocated in an experimental design of randomized blocks in a 4 × 2 factorial design, and they were administered four levels of benzoic acid (0.00%, 0.25%, 0.50% and 0.75%) and inoculated (or not) in two consecutive days with 1 ml solution containing 106 CFU/ml of E. coli (K88+). Seven replicates (pens) per treatment were used, and four animals were kept per pen. Supplementation with 0.75% benzoic acid promoted better performance (p < 0.05) in the nursery phase as well as in the subsequent phases until slaughter, and it decreased the incidence of diarrhoea in piglets (p < 0.05). In the piglets fed the benzoic acid diet, the villus height in the jejunum and ileum was greater until 42 days of life (p < 0.05), the crypt depth was decreased in the caecum (p < 0.05), and the butyric acid concentration was increased in the caecal content tendencially (p = 0.0708). In conclusion, supplementation with 0.75% benzoic acid has a positive effect on piglets by reducing diarrhoea, improving intestinal health and promoting the performance from weaning to finishing. Thus, benzoic acid can be considered a potential alternative that can replace growth-promoting antibiotics.

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