Probiotics are considered an important category of food additives known to improve the gut profile in the host’s body. This article provides some insights into different types of probiotics, their various effects, and how they can improve pig growth performance when added to their diet.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that bring health benefits when administered to pigs in appropriate and regular amounts. Pigs are most vulnerable to stomach infections, which can lead to poor digestion and increased mortality rate.

Probiotics help in restoring balance in the gut and fighting off pathogens that could cause infections. Additionally, probiotics can increase growth rates, improve milk production, and reduce the mortality rate in pigs.

A wide range of commercial supplements can be used as probiotics to improve pig’s health.

Commercial supplements

Commercial probiotics are sometimes isolated from the host’s intestinal microflora. They’re selected based on resistance to stomach acid and their ability to neutralize pathogens. Commercial probiotics include bacterial cultures or yeast cells.

However, some products may include a combination of various strains for maximum effect. Some of the most commonly used probiotic bacteria are Bacillus, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, Enterococcus, Pediococcus, and Streptococcus.

Probiotics vs. prebiotics

Probiotics are microorganisms that help to maintain a healthy gut flora. On the contrary, prebiotics are substances of non-digestible fibers. They don’t actively maintain gut balance but act as a growth medium for the probiotics.

In short, probiotics are the living microorganisms acting on the gut to improve the balance, while prebiotics are non-living organisms acting as a source of nutrients for probiotics and maximizing their effectiveness.

probiotics for pigs

How probiotics are implemented in a pig’s diet

Implementing probiotics in a diet may seem a bit tricky, but it’s crucial for pig growth. These steps can help you understand the implementation process better.

1. Choose the right strain

There are several probiotic strains you can use in pig feed. Lactobacillus spp, Faecium spp, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis, and Bifidobacterium bifidum are the most commonly used probiotics.

Your choice of strain depends on your desired outcome. For example, Lactobacillus murinus increases body weight, while Lactobacillus fermentum improves digestion.

2. Administer the correct dose

Make sure that the right dose is administered to achieve optimal health and performance results. The dosage depends on your chosen strain and the pig’s age and body weight. We suggest consulting a veterinarian or the manufacturer to avoid overfeeding or underfeeding and to utilize a dose that meets your specific farm conditions.

3. Observe growth performance

After administration, keep an eye on the pigs’ growth performance. We recommend tracking their body changes over time to determine the effect of probiotics. Some of these body changes may include increased body weight, improved feed intake, lower feed conversion ratio, reduced mortality, diarrhea and pig mortality.

How probiotics can benefit pigs at each stage of life

The pig’s life cycle can be divided into three stages: sow herd, nursery, and growing-finishing phases. Probiotics can be used in all stages of a pig’s life cycle for multiple purposes.

Use of probiotics in sow

The sow phase includes gestation, birth, and lactation. Throughout this phase, pigs are more prone to various diseases, and extra measures are taken for both the female pig and the piglet.

Probiotics are used in the sow to improve overall health and reduce health risks in weaning piglets. Some possible benefits include:

  • Improvement in reproductive performance of the gilt
  • Increased feed efficiency during pregnancy, especially in the last stage
  • Increased milk production during lactation
  • Increased litter size and viability
  • Reduction in uterus diseases
  • Reduction in gut pathogens

Use of probiotics during the nursery phase

This stage is considered the most crucial phase as the gut and immune system develop. Post-weaning piglets are more vulnerable to pathogens and susceptible to various diseases.

Probiotics can stimulate the immune system and help them fight pathogenic invasions. A few advantages are:

  • Stabilizes the intestinal microbiota of weanling pigs, leading to improved feed efficiency
  • Enhances protection against gastrointestinal disorders caused by various pathogens, including enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Clostridioides difficile 
  • Improves intestinal barrier function, leading to better nutrient absorption and improved resistance against pathogenic substances
  • Improves digestibility and growth performance by reducing the feed conversion ratio

Use of probiotics during the growth-finishing stage

Growing finishing pigs have fully developed gastrointestinal tracts and have improved resistance against pathogens. Nutritionists argue that probiotics aren’t very effective in weaned pigs.

However, various live trials and microbiological studies reveal there is still a margin for improvement when probiotics are administered during this phase. Some benefits are:

  • Improved meat quality for dietary consumption
  • Improved resistance against zoonotic infections caused by various pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella spp and E. coli
  • Reduction in environmental contamination caused by ammonia
  • Reduced mortality rate
  • Weight gain
  • Improved feed efficiency

How do probiotics improve swine gut health?

Probiotics improve swine gut health through various modes of action, including gut microbiota modulation, host immune response modification, antitoxin effect, nutrient digestibility improvement, and antioxidation.

Gut microbiota modulation

Gut microbiota modulation, which involves using probiotics, can improve swine gut health in several ways. Probiotics work by competitively excluding pathogenic bacteria, improving gut barrier function, producing bacteriocins, and improving microbiota homeostasis.

These mechanisms of action help to maintain a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients, prevent pathogen colonization, and promote overall gut health in swine.

Host immune response modification

The gastrointestinal barrier protects the gut against pathogenic attacks, but some diseases can harm the barrier — leaving the stomach vulnerable to other harmful attacks. Probiotics can help repair the barrier and improve the pig’s immune response.

Additionally, probiotics facilitate pigs to produce antibodies. These antibodies regulate immune response, induce specific immunoglobulin (IgG) antibodies, and protect against bacterial and viral infections.

Probiotics have also been shown to promote the innate and acquired immunity in the liver of the pigs, an organ continuously confronted by foreign pathogens and commensal bacteria.

The addition of probiotics results in an increase in phagocytic cells in the liver of piglets, promoting antigen clearance and the activation of the inflammatory response needed to increase the production of antibodies.

Antitoxin effect

The toxins and enterotoxins produced by pathogenic bacteria attack the mucosal lining and cause diarrhea followed by intestinal fluid loss. Probiotics protect pigs against bacterial attacks or their adhesion to the gut mucosa  which leads to decreased incidences of diarrhea.

Nutrient digestibility improvement

Probiotic supplements improve the digestibility of various nutrients,  such as organic matter, fatty acids, dry matter, crude fiber, crude protein, and phosphorus.

This improved digestion is attributed to the increased production of enzymes by probiotics. These enzymes improve digestion by breaking down substances into nutrients that are easily absorbed by the gut.

Probiotics are also known to increase nutrient absorption in the epithelial lining of the small intestine.


Pigs are more exposed to oxidative stress in industrial settings, meaning unhygienic conditions and extreme weather conditions elevate stress levels, making them more prone to pathogenic attacks. This oxidative stress leads to a decreased immune response.

Are probiotics worth implementing in your pigs’ diet?

The use of probiotics in pigs’ diets can help reduce the chances of disease and improve overall health. Probiotics produce various beneficial effects, such as improved performance, increased feed intake, disease reduction, and improved meat production.

Probiotics supplements are considered safe for animal health. They don’t cause harmful or hazardous effects to the pig. Probiotics also enhance the immune response, and they can also have an antimicrobial effect thanks to the many metabolites produced by each strain.

The various benefits make probiotics a favorable choice for your pigs’ feed, as these substances can reduce mortality and help you avoid costly treatments.

However, make sure to choose the right kind of probiotic for your feed and administer it in the correct dose to get the maximum effect.

Learn more about eMax Feed Technologies and how they can help your pigs

Our guide provided some insights into the various benefits of probiotics supplementation and how they can improve swine production by working on various stages in the pig’s life cycle.

Choosing the right kind of probiotic is crucial for your pigs’ health. eMax Feed Technologies provide specific probiotic strains to achieve optimal intestinal health.

Optimal intestinal health is the key to improving feed efficiency, animal health, growth performance, and, ultimately, your production output. Our team of experts is here to help you figure out the best feed for your pigs.

Feel free to reach out by filling out our contact form. Our representatives will contact you and provide information about various products and how they can help improve your pig production.