What do activated MCFAs do? Count the options with PMI’s Stacie Crowder


Get in the “Swineweb” with PMI Nutritional expert Stacie Crowder. Your pigs are under continuous risk of disease challenges that could come from up the road or across an ocean. How do you make sure you’re addressing every route pathogens could take to get into your barn? Stacie is the expert to help you!

Question (Jim Eadie from Swineweb.com):
I know that your passion is in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in swine diets, either as a biosecurity tool or as a supplement to support immunity and pig performance. Can you explain in simple terms to producers what they need to know about this?

Answer (Stacie Crowder):
Pigs are under continuous risk of disease challenges from up the road or across an ocean. And producers are under constant pressure to adjust diets to keep them cost-effective. My colleagues and I get excited about activated MCFAs because they can address both – supporting biosecurity and efficiency.

In simple terms, MCFAs are fatty acids with 6, 8, 10 or 12 carbon atoms. They work within feeds as a biosecurity tool, interacting with bacteria or viruses at any point during feed transportation, manufacturing or storage. MCFAs address risk factors before pigs consume the feed, and they continue to work within the pig during digestion.

MCFAs are found in different forms. At PMI, we use activated MCFAs because they’re not connected to another molecule, which means they are “free” and immediately able to deliver benefits. In addition to biosecurity, activated MCFAs also support pig performance. Because they’re free of other molecules, they can quickly serve as sources of energy to support the gut lining, an important barrier against disease.

Question (Jim Eadie from Swineweb.com):
Can you explain what activated MCFAs do and how they do it?

Answer (Stacie Crowder):
Activated MCFAs essentially serve as security guards, protecting pigs from bacteria and viruses.

With bacteria, MCFAs move through the bacterial cell walls. Once inside, they weaken bacteria cells and block replication to reduce bacterial load and strength of the bacterial challenge pigs face.

Against a viral threat such as PEDv or PRRS, MCFAs work in the feed before consumption. When MCFAs contact viruses in feed, they break through the virus’ envelope, causing the viral contents to dump out and render the virus inactive before the pig consumes the feed.

It’s important to note that different bacteria and viruses are susceptible to different lengths of MCFAs. Feeding a strategic combination of lengths – 6, 8, 10 and 12 carbons – supports a more consistent response and is the most effective against pathogens.

Feeding combinations of activated MCFAs is a proactive way to give broad-spectrum support, even when the exact disease challenge is unknown.

Question (Jim Eadie from Swineweb.com):
Can you tell me a little bit about your background in the industry?

Answer (Stacie Crowder):
I have had the opportunity to work in nutrition in multiple livestock sectors. My current role is at PMI, a supplier of functional feed additives for swine, poultry, dairy and beef cattle. I earned my master’s in ruminant nutrition from Purdue University with a focus on Omega-3 fatty acids and began my career as a ruminant nutritionist in the feed industry. I have been in the feed industry for 15 years, with the last 13 years focused as a monogastric nutritionist. I returned to Purdue to earn my Ph.D. in swine nutrition, and I am just months away from wrapping up that work. I joined the Purina team in 2012 as a technical swine and poultry specialist. Since then, I have worked on teams at Purina and PMI, which are both part of the Land O’Lakes family. Currently, I am the monogastric product manager for PMI.

Question (Jim Eadie from Swineweb.com):
Gut health is essential for livestock. Can you remind readers why gut health is essential and provide a “Stacie’s Top 5” list of tools or tips?

Answer (Stacie Crowder):
Gut health is essential because the gut contains 70% of the pig’s immune system. Supporting the gut’s function as a barrier from pathogens protects pigs, plain and simple.

The No. 1 tool I recommend is activated MCFAs. Here are five reasons why:

  1. They can work immediately as a biosecurity tool to protect pigs from pathogens in feed.
  2. MCFAs interact in multiple ways with viruses and bacteria, so they provide consistent, broad support.
  3. MCFAs inhibit pathogenic bacteria and support an optimal gut environment for beneficial bacteria, which in turn support the pig’s immune system.
  4. MCFAs are an easily accessible energy source to support the integrity of the intestinal lining. A healthy gut lining helps pigs stay healthy and performing during diet transitions or other periods of stress.
  5. Activated MCFAs have a low inclusion rate, giving you flexibility in swine diet formulation, including in nursery diets, where space is at a premium.

Question (Jim Eadie from Swineweb.com):
PMI has a pretty diverse product line. The floor is open to talking about one of these products that may be unknown or are underrated. Which is it, and how does it help producers?

Answer (Stacie Crowder):
Yes, PMI has a broad range of feed additives for swine, poultry, beef and dairy cattle diets, as well as several products that work for multiple species. A relatively new and powerful tool developing for swine producers is the area of feed biosecurity. We are working diligently in this area and have Dominnate® feed additive, which contains activated MCFAs and is designed to address the growing concern with feed biosecurity.

As industry research has shown, feed ingredients have the potential to transmit viruses.[1]  Dominnate® feed additive can be part of an operation’s biosecurity program. It also has been shown to support pig performance in a 2019 viral challenge study.[2]

Question (Jim Eadie from Swineweb.com):
Stress, feed impurities and pathogens in the environment present on-going challenges to animal health. What are short- and long-term strategies producers should consider?

Answer (Stacie Crowder):
My recommendation is to use multi-faceted strategies. Dividing your plan into short- and long-term goals is a good place to start.

In the short term, using nutritional tools, including a strategic blend of activated MCFAs, is a wise choice against known and unknown biosecurity challenges. They also address the impacts of stress by supporting gut function during diet changes or other stressful periods.

In the long term, producers can tap into their nutritionists or veterinarians to identify potential gaps in their biosecurity protocols and make plans to address those gaps. Where could pathogens sneak into their operation? What would happen if they had a breach in biosecurity? Do they have proactive and responsive solutions in place?

Addressing disease risk in feed is one part of a strong biosecurity plan that keeps pigs healthy and protects the operation’s bottom line.

Connect with Crowder or read more about activated MCFAs at pmiadditives.com.

[1] Dee, SA, Niederwerder MC, Patterson G, et al. The risk of viral transmission in feed: What do we know, what do we do?. Transbound Emerg Dis. 2020;00:1–7. https://doi.org/10.1111/tbed.13606

[1] Dee et al., 2019