British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Metabolism and Metabolic Studies

Comparative effect of orally administered sodium butyrate before or after weaning on growth and several indices of gastrointestinal biology of piglets

Maud Le Galla1 c1, Mélanie Galloisa2, Bernard Sèvea1, Isabelle Louveaua1, Jens J. Holsta3, Isabelle P. Oswalda2, Jean-Paul Lallèsa1 and Paul Guilloteaua1

a1 INRA, UMR 1079, Systèmes d'Elevage, Nutrition Animale et Humaine, Domaine de la Prise, F-35000 Rennes, France

a2 INRA, UR66, Unité de Pharmacologie-Toxicologie, 180 chemin de Tournefeuille, BP93173, 31027 Toulouse cedex 03, France

a3 Department of Biomedical Sciences (previously Medical Physiology), University of Copenhagen, The Panum Institute, Blegdamsvej 3, DK-2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark


Sodium butyrate (SB) provided orally favours body growth and maturation of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) in milk-fed pigs. In weaned pigs, conflicting results have been obtained. Therefore, we hypothesised that the effects of SB (3 g/kg DM intake) depend on the period (before v. after weaning) of its oral administration. From the age of 5 d, thirty-two pigs, blocked in quadruplicates within litters, were assigned to one of four treatments: no SB (control), SB before (for 24 d), or after (for 11–12 d) weaning and SB before and after weaning (for 35–36 d). Growth performance, feed intake and various end-point indices of GIT anatomy and physiology were investigated at slaughter. The pigs supplemented with SB before weaning grew faster after weaning than the controls (P < 0·05). The feed intake was higher in pigs supplemented with SB before or after weaning (P < 0·05). SB provided before weaning improved post-weaning faecal digestibility (P < 0·05) while SB after weaning decreased ileal and faecal digestibilities (P < 0·05). Gastric digesta retention was higher when SB was provided before weaning (P < 0·05). Post-weaning administration of SB decreased the activity of three pancreatic enzymes and five intestinal enzymes (P < 0·05). IL-18 gene expression tended to be lower in the mid-jejunum in SB-supplemented pigs. The small-intestinal mucosa was thinner and jejunal villous height lower in all SB groups (P < 0·05). In conclusion, the pre-weaning SB supplementation was the most efficient to stimulate body growth and feed intake after weaning, by reducing gastric emptying and intestinal mucosa weight and by increasing feed digestibility.

(Received October 16 2008)

(Revised March 12 2009)

(Accepted April 20 2009)

(Online publication June 01 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Maud Le Gall, fax +33 223485080, email


Abbreviations: BB, pigs supplemented with butyrate both before and after weaning; BC, pigs supplemented with butyrate only before weaning; BW, body weight; CB, pigs supplemented with butyrate only after weaning; CC, pigs never supplemented with butyrate; GIT, gastrointestinal tract; GLP-2, glucagon-like peptide-2; IGF-I, insulin-like growth factor-I; SB, sodium butyrate; SI, small intestine