Medium-chain fatty acids
Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) are saturated fatty acids with 6 to 12 carbon in length, and are caproic (C6), caprylic (C8), capric (C10), and lauric (C12) acids. Medium-chain fatty acids occur naturally in triglycerides of various feed ingredients, especially coconut oil and palm oil, but are commercially available as single MCFA or blends of MCFA. The characteristics of medium-chain fatty acids include easy digestion and rapid absorption, which makes MCFA a readily available source of energy for the pig (Zentek et al., 2011).
The inclusion of MCFA in swine diets have demonstrated a potential to improve growth performance and gut health particularly in nursery pigs (Zentek et al., 2011; Gebhardt et al., 2017). Medium-chain fatty acids provide a readily available source of energy, which can be utilized by the pig for growth or by the gut cells to improve gut development and integrity (Zentek et al., 2011; Liu, 2015). The effects of MCFA on growth performance are greatly dependent on MCFA type, purity, and inclusion rate in the diet (Gebhardt et al., 2017). Improvements in nursery performance have been demonstrated with 0.50% inclusion of C6 or C8 as well as with 0.25, 0.50, 1.0 or 1.50% inclusion of a 1:1:1 blend of C6, C8, and C10 (Gebhardt et al., 2017).
In addition, MCFA are able to inactivate bacteria and virus (Zentek et al., 2011; Hanczakowska, 2017), contributing to both gut health and feed safety (Liu, 2015; Cochrane et al., 2017; Gebhardt et al., 2018a).