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Published: September 16, 2021

Why does MCT boost up the feed conversion ratio?

By 2035, the demand for animal protein will grow by 45%. Therefore, there is an urgent need for innovation to further improve feed efficiency (feed conversion ratio)and farm animal health. 

Butyrate (C4) such as sodium butyrate, calcium butyrate is one of the most widely used and well-known additives in the livestock industry today. Over the years, improvements in tight junction formation, villi/crypt ratios, gene expression, and anti-inflammatory effects have improved efficiency on many farms. 

What are Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA)?

Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) are fatty acids with 6 to 12 carbon atoms in their molecular structure and they can exist as medium-chain fatty acid triglycerides. Medium-chain fatty acids are mainly concentrated in hexanoic acid (6 carbons), octanoic acid (8 carbons), capric acid (10 carbons), and lauric acid (12 carbons). Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) combine with glycerol to form medium-chain fatty acid glycerides. 

Researchers in the 1980s found that most mammals fill their intestines with large amounts of bacteria a few hours after birth. For example, piglets can be found with 109 to 1010 Streptococcus, E. coli, and Lactobacillus in their feces 6 h after birth. In contrast, the stomach and small intestine of young rabbits during lactation are almost bacteria-free. It has been found that this is because rabbit milk contains a large amount of medium-chain fatty acid glycerides that play an excellent antibacterial role. The C8 content in rabbit milk can be as high as 34.3%. 

Medium-chain fatty acids and it's problems

In the last 10 years, due to the increasing awareness of medium-chain fatty acids, scholars have been trying to use medium-chain fatty acids directly in animal feed production, but the effect is not significant. There are three main problems. 

The first is that most of the commercial medium-chain fatty acids contain only octanoic acid (C8), caprylic acid (C10), and lauric acid (C12), and almost no or very little hexanoic acid (C6), and thus have poor antibacterial effects. Hexanoic acid (C6) has the broadest antibacterial spectrum and the highest antibacterial activity against Gram-positive pathogenic bacteria and Gram-negative pathogenic bacteria among different medium-chain fatty acids. Since C6 and C8 have lower relative molecular masses, they are more abundant than HFAs for the same weight unit. Therefore, they are combined with medium-chain fatty acids, mainly hexanoic acid (C6), to exert excellent antibacterial effects. 

Secondly, medium-chain fatty acids mostly dissociate in acidic environments (stomach or crop), and only a small amount can enter the intestine, thus medium-chain fatty acids alone have no significant effect on increasing intestinal villi. 

Thirdly, medium-chain fatty acids generally have an irritating odor, which affects the palatability of feeds, and are not conducive to feed processing and production such as corrosive and easy to solidify. 

The solution

In recent years, as the research on medium-chain fatty acid glycerides has been intensified, medium-chain fatty acid glycerides (MCT), formed by combining medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) and glycerol, has solved the above three problem points and has been added to pig feed with remarkable effect. At the same time, due to the special intestinal distribution of medium-chain fatty acid glycerides, they have a better intestinal function than ordinary medium-chain fatty acids or acidifiers. 

Uthai Kantho from Thailand found that the application of MCT in weaning piglets' feed can completely replace the growth inhibitor (Halquinol), and MCT can increase the feed conversion rate of piglets by 7% and daily weight gain by 5%. Dr. Karl Heinz Tölle, Germany, found that the addition of MFA triglycerides in the feed of piglets 3-4 weeks after weaning could significantly increase the body weight of piglets and reduce the number of organic acids and probiotics added. 

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