The new and exciting world of accelerators

The arrival of accelerators in the past two years is interesting. They’re fed to young pigs from the neonate onwards to the immediate post-weaning stage.

Years ago, along with two nutritionist colleagues of mine at RHM agriculture – Mick Hazzledine and Paul Toplis (who have both become eminent in the world of pig nutrition) – the three of us agreed that how you managed the baby pig, and especially how you fed it, could pay back up to threefold in performance by slaughter weight, and even more in economic return from better feed and new diets really early on. RHM’s well-named product “Nourish” was one such product developed at the time.

But accelerators are more than just reformulated feed and a new diet. Neither are they “only another growth promoter product”, as I have heard some cynics say.

Quoting Paul Toplis: “Accelerators have non-nutrition features in how they perform and are produced”. As well as compiling a list of special ingredients – under wrappers of course – he continues: “Accelerators use a new production technology to activate specific ingredients that create a novel effect, whose performance impact is greater than can be accounted-for by the ingredients alone, by changing the way they are digested in the gut.”

One farmer said of my explanation: “Sounds like a relaunch of the old flavouring idea, maybe with the latest probiotics thrown in!”

No, as far as I know, while palatants and a probiotic could be part of it, there’s much more involved, possibly even a genomic influence that I described last time.

Switch-on effect
As I see it, accelerators are not just short-term digestive enhancers either. Fed to weaning, they seem to have a carry-over effect through to slaughter beyond that of an ideally-formulated pre-weaning food.

For me that’s the interesting bit. Trials show that only 200g/piglet of an accelerator from day four to weaning, when fed against a good creep feed, markedly increased fed intake to 28 day. This alone kickstarts the weaner into better growth towards slaughter. Burt there may be a non-nutritive carry-over as well, especially after weaning when the immature gut struggles to deal with the change of feed. Beneficial micro-organisms may be involved in encouraging the immune system to react better to the challenges of commercial farm conditions.

An accelerator therefore “switches-on” the neonate to help it negotiate the inevitable post-weaning check to growth, and then strengthens its lifetime performance subsequently. I have no doubt we’ll hear more about them from now on.

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About The Author

John Gadd, who has spent 60 years' involvement in pig production, has had more than 2,800 articles about pigs published and has written three best-selling pig textbooks. With hands-on experience that includes managing a grow-out herd at 1,800ft in Banffshire, Scotland, and 20 years in the allied industries with Boots' Farm Department, RHM Agriculture and Taymix, he set up his own international pig management consultancy in the mid 1980s and has now visited more than 3,000 pig units in 33 countries as a pig management adviser. (Photo courtesy Bournemouth Daily Echo)