Effect of liquid feeding at different water-to-feed ratios on the morphological adaptations in the gastrointestinal tract of growing pigs


  • David Hurst Faculty of Life Sciences, Imperial College London (Wye Campus), United Kingdom
  • Darren Thomas Juniper Department of Animal Sciences, University of Reading, United Kingdom,
  • Lynne Clark Faculty of Life Sciences, Imperial College London (Wye Campus), United Kingdom.
  • Jennie Litten- Brown Animal Sciences, Canterbury College, Canterbury, United Kingdom
  • Anne Corson Faculty of Life Sciences, Imperial College London (Wye Campus), United Kingdom
  • Ian Lean Faculty of Life Sciences, Imperial College London (Wye Campus), United Kingdom.




liquid feeding, gastrointestinal tract morphology, pigs


The study examined the morphology of the gastro-intestinal tract (GI) of growing pigs offered dry feed or liquid feed with differing water-to-feed ratios.  Twenty male pigs were randomly allocated to one of four treatment groups; treatments included a standard dry pelleted diet (D) or the same diet soaked in water at a feed-to-water ratio of 1:1.5 (T1:1.5), 1:3 (T1:3) or 1:3 with the addition of lactic acid to adjust the feed to pH 4 (T1:3[4]).  Animals were humanely slaughtered after 6 weeks to enable sampling and histological examination (light, scanning electron (LSEM) and binocular dissection microscope) of the GI tract. Samples were taken at the 2% position (duodenum), the 20% position and 50 % position (jejunum) along the small intestines (SI).  Liquid-fed pigs were heavier (P < 0.05) and exhibited improved feed conversion ratios (FCR) when compared to D animals. These differences in live weight were attributed to alterations in the weight and volume of the stomach and SI, which were also heavier and larger in liquid-fed pigs (P < 0.05).  However, these differences were no longer apparent when intestinal weights and stomach volumes were adjusted for animal live weight. Differences in villus type between the treatments were noted throughout, particularly in the duodenum and proximal jejunum sections. Mean villus height was taller in all liquid-fed animals when compared to D pigs (P<0.05); this was particularly apparent in T1:1.5 and T1:3[4] pigs. There were no differences in crypt depths between treatment groups at the 2% and 20 % positions, but at the 50 % position the T1:1.5 group crypts were deeper (P < 0.05) than those in the D and T1:3 pigs. It is concluded that liquid feeding alters the morphology of the GI tract, which may in part, explain the differences in growth performance observed between liquid and D fed pigs.  The inclusion of organic acid in the diets of T1:3[4] pigs appeared to exert an effect on villus height and crypt depth when compared to those pigs receiving the T1:3 diet


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