Nutritive value of Acacia species and response of pigs fed on incremental levels of Acacia tortilis leaf meal-based diets.
The broad objective of the current study was to determine the response of pigs fed on incremental levels of Acacia tortilis leaf meal-based diet. Eight trees of each of the following five dominant leguminous leaf meals; A. tortilis, A. robusta, A. nilotica, A. nigrescens and A. xanthophloea, were individually hand harvested from the same grazing camp at Makhathini Research Station, Jozini, South Africa. The leaf meals were harvested between April and May 2013 after the rainy season at advance stage of maturity. Following the nutritive evaluation of Acacia species, A. tortilis was selected for the feeding experiment. Thirty finishing male F1 hybrid (Landrace × Large White) pigs with an initial weight of 60.6 (s.d. = 0.94) kg were randomly allotted to six dietary treatments containing 0, 50, 100, 150, 200, 250 g/kg DM inclusion levels of A. tortilis leaf meal. Each treatment diet was offered ad libitum to five pigs in individual pens for 21 days. Average daily feed intake (ADFI), body weight, average daily gain (ADG) and gain: feed ratio was measured every week. Blood was collected at the end of the experimental period for the determination of nutritionally-related blood metabolites and activity of Aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine amino transferase (ALT) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP). Following a feed withdrawal period of 12 hours, pigs with a mean body weight of 80 ± 15 kg were slaughtered, eviscerated for the collection of livers, kidneys, lungs and heart from each pig and weighed individually using a digital scale. Acacia tortilis and A. xanthophloea leaf meals had the highest CP and fat content (P < 0.01) among all the Acacia species. The NDF and ADF varied significantly across Acacia species (P < 0.05). Acacia robusta had significantly the highest levels of non-structural carbohydrates, whilst A. tortilis had the lowest. The concentration of proanthocynidins varied across the species. Acacia tortilis had significantly high levels (23 g/kg DM) of phosphorus compared to the other species. Acacia nilotica had the highest (P < 0.001) concentration of iron, but it had the lowest (P < 0.01) level of manganese. There was a quadratic decrease in both ADFI and ADG (P < 0.001) with as A. tortilis leaf meal increased. The gain: feed ratio was linearly reduced (P < 0.001) with incremental levels of A. tortilis leaf meal in the diets. Serum concentrations of Fe, AST and ALP increased quadratically (P < 0.01) as A. tortilis leaf meal increased. There was a linear increase in ALT activity with increased leaf meal inclusion. Hepatosomatic index (HSI: liver weight/ body weight x 100), scaled kidney weight and scaled heart weight increased linearly (P < 0.001) as A. tortilis leaf meal increased. There was, however, a quadratic increase in the relative weight of lungs (P < 0.001) as leaf meal increased. In conclusion, the piecewise regression (brocken-stick) NLIN procedure (SAS, 2008; SASA institute Inc.) showed that A. tortilis leaf meal can be included in finisher pig diet up to 150 g/kg DM of feed without negatively affecting growth performance, nutritionally-related blood metabolites, liver enzymes and internal organs of pigs.