Dietary substitution of soybean oil with coconut oil in the absence of dietary antibiotics supports growth performance and immune function in nursery and grower pigs. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: We hypothesized that supplementation of nursery and grower pig diets with coconut oil in the absence of antibiotics would yield maintenance of glucose homeostasis, growth performance, and immune function similar to what is achieved with nursery and grower pig diets containing antibiotics. Pigs received the same base treatment diets from d24 (weaning) to d71 of age and had blood and fecal samples collected on d24, d31, d45 and d71 for measurement of whole blood glucose, serum insulin, cortisol and cytokines, and fecal microbiome. Pigs had weekly weights and daily feed consumption measured throughout the study. Animals were euthanized at d71 and subcutaneous fat and ileal contents were collected for assessment for fatty acids and microbiome, respectively. Diet treatments consisted of 2% soybean oil plus antibiotics (ABX; n=22), 2% soybean oil without antibiotics (NABX; n=22), and 2% coconut oil without antibiotics (COC; n=22). Statistical analysis examined the effect of diet within each timepoint using a repeated measures ANOVA. RESULTS: Pigs fed COC diet had decreased serum insulin levels, maintained feed intake, feed conversion and weight gain, and, based on serum cytokines and fecal microbiome, were immunologically similar to ABX-fed pigs. However, NABX-fed pigs performed similarly to the ABX-fed pigs in all parameters except for serum cytokines. Additionally, there was no difference in the incidence of diarrhea between any of the diet treatments. CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that dietary antibiotics are not necessary to maintain growth performance in nursery and grower pigs. However, dietary antibiotics appear to modulate circulating cytokine levels. Dietary coconut oil is neither harmful nor helpful to growth performance or immune function in nursery and grower pigs but does modulate serum insulin levels. Therefore, while coconut oil fed at 2% by weight is a suitable substitute for dietary antibiotics, this study suggests that no substitute for dietary antibiotics is needed at all.

published proceedings

  • J Anim Sci Biotechnol

altmetric score

  • 11.33

author list (cited authors)

  • Braundmeier-Fleming, A. G., Skenandore, C. S., Gil, L., Jacobsen, V., Cregger, M., Badger, T., ... Newell-Fugate, A. E.

citation count

  • 6

complete list of authors

  • Braundmeier-Fleming, Andrea G||Skenandore, Cassandra S||Gil, Lesly||Jacobsen, Victoria||Cregger, Melissa||Badger, Taylor||Karr, Mallory||Wu, Guoyao||Smith, Stephen B||Newell-Fugate, Annie E

publication date

  • December 2020