The restrictions on the use of antibiotic and anthelmintic treatments in organic pig farming necessitate alternative non-medical control strategies. Therefore, the antibiotic and parasite-reducing effect of a fructan-rich (prebiotic) diet of dried chicory was investigated in free-ranging piglets. Approximately half of 67 piglets from nine litters were experimentally infected with Ascaris suum and Trichuris suis in the suckling period (1 to 7 weeks of age) and 58 of the piglets were challenged daily with Eschericia coli O138:F8 for 9 days after weaning to induce weaning diarrhoea. The litters were fed either chicory (30% dry matter) or a control diet. The effect of chicory on intestinal helminths, intestinal microbiota, especially Bifidobacteria and Campylobacter spp. and E. coli post-weaning diarrhoea was assessed. The weight gain of the piglets was not impaired significantly by chicory. The intestinal A. suum worm burden was reduced by 64% (P = 0.034) in the chicory-fed piglets, whereas these same piglets had 63% more T. suis worms (P = 0.016). Feeding with chicory elicited no changes among the main bacterial groups in ileum according to terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. However, the terminal-restriction fragment (T-RF) 208 bp, which may belong to Lachnospiraceae, was stimulated by the chicory feed (P = 0.03), and T-RF 370 bp that matches Enterobacter belonging to the Enterobacteria was reduced (P = 0.004). In addition, chicory increased the level of Bifidobacteria (P = 0.001) and the faecal Campylobacter excretion level was transitorily reduced in chicory-fed piglets at 7 weeks of age (P = 0.029). Unfortunately, it was not possible to assess the effect of chicory on post-weaning diarrhoea as it did not develop. In conclusion, feeding piglets chicory around the time of weaning caused complex changes of the microbiota and parasite communities within the intestinal tract, and feeding piglets chicory may therefore serve as an animal-friendly strategy to control pathogens.
- Ascaris suum
- Trichuris suis