Implementing a phytomolecule supplemented diet during lactation to reduce the incidence of meningitis in sucker piglets

Project goal

Determine the effectiveness of a phytomolecule on prevalence, incidence and severity of meningitis (caused by S. suis infection) in sucker piglets.

Project summary

Streptococcal infections, caused by bacterium Streptococcus suis (S. suis), are common and cause arthritis, septicaemia and meningitis. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a common bacterium of the gut, and infection occurs in a similar manner to S. suis. The current control of S. suis and E. coli is through improved hygiene and ventilation, and reduced stressors such as overcrowding.

Previous studies demonstrated that supplementation of phytomolecules in sow diets significantly reduced the shedding of S. suis and E. coli, when measured in sow faecal samples. As such, phytogenics present the possibility of replacing routine in-feed antibiotics, by improving gut health and providing evidence of reduced impact of viral and bacterial infections.

This study investigated the effect of feeding a pre-farrow and lactation diet that included the addition of a phytomolecule blend in order for potential reduction in shedding of harmful bacteria into the farrowing crate, which would result in improved piglet health and performance.  

Value for producers:

  • Intake of phytomolecules by the sow could disrupt the transmission of S. suis bacteria to piglets and hence reduce the incidence of meningitis within the herd.
  • Additional production advantages/disadvantages when the phytomolecule is included in the lactation sow diet were quantified. ¬†


  • The inclusion of the phytomolecule supplement in the diet of the lactating sow had no observable¬† impact (P > 0.05) on the number of litters requiring treatment for meningitis or the number of cases per litter.
  • Differences in reproductive performance were observed between treatments. Sows that received the phytomolecule supplemented diet tended to wean more pigs per litter (P < 0.10) and had significantly less pre-foster deaths (P < 0.05).
  • The study was unable to determine if the bacterial load of S. suis or E. coli was reduced, and as such further research should be conducted.
  • The significantly decreased pre-foster mortality, and tendency for a higher number of pigs weaned in the sows fed the treatment diet, is a promising result that requires further investigation.
Research enquiries