Effect of fiber source and crude protein level on nursery pig performance and fecal microbial communities

Kelsey L. Batson, Alison C. Neujahr, Thomas Burkey, Samodha C. Fernando, Mike D. Tokach, Jason C. Woodworth, Robert D. Goodband, Joel M. DeRouchey, Jordan T. Gebhardt, Hilda I. Calderón

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Reduction in dietary crude protein and addition of fiber could mitigate the incidence and severity of post-weaning diarrhea, a common gastrointestinal condition in newly weaned pigs. Therefore, 360 weanling pigs, initially 5.0 ± 0.10 kg, were used to evaluate the effects of crude protein (CP) level and fiber source on growth performance and fecal microbial communities. At weaning, pigs were randomly assigned to pens and allotted to 1 of 8 dietary treatments in a 2 × 4 factorial with main effects of CP (21 or 18%) and fiber source (none, coarse wheat bran, oat hulls, or cellulose). There were 5 pigs per pen and 9 pens per treatment. Experimental diets were formulated in two dietary phases from d 0 to 10 and 10 to 24, with a common post-treatment diet fed from 24 to 45. The 21% CP diets contained 1.40% standardized ileal digestible (SID) Lys in phase 1 and 1.35% SID Lys in phase 2. By using a maximum SID Lys:digestible CP ratio of 6.35%, the 18% CP diets contained 1.25% SID Lys in both phases. Diets containing a fiber source were formulated to the level of insoluble fiber provided by 4% coarse wheat bran, resulting in the addition of 1.85% oat hulls and 1.55% cellulose. No fiber source × CP level interactions (P > 0.05) were observed. Decreasing CP (and subsequently SID lysine) decreased (P = 0.05) ADG and G:F during the experimental period. From d 0 to 45, ADG decreased (P = 0.05) for pigs fed 18% CP diets compared to pigs fed 21% CP. No effect of fiber source was observed for growth performance. Fecal DM on d 17 increased (P < 0.001) for pigs fed 18% CP diets compared to pigs fed 21% CP diets. Pigs fed diets with added cellulose had increased (P < 0.05) fecal dry matter during the experimental period compared to pigs fed no fiber source or wheat bran. Bacterial community structure was investigated by sequencing the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Analysis indicated a significant difference between CP content at d 24 (P = 0.023) using a Weighted UniFrac distance matrix. Further investigation identified five differential Amplicon Sequence Variants associated with CP content at d 24. In conclusion, reducing crude protein (and subsequently SID Lys) decreased growth performance but increased fecal dry matter content. The source of dietary fiber in nursery diets had no impact on growth performance; but pigs fed added cellulose had increased fecal DM compared with other treatments. Microbial analysis identified differential taxa associated with CP content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberskab343
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • crude protein
  • fecal dry matter
  • growth
  • insoluble fiber
  • nursery pig

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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