China feeds pigs from 45,000,000 sows, according to the latest census. This is about 10 times more sows than the second largest pig producer in the world, namely the U.S. Not only that, but in the last decade, China’s research institutions have started to produce research — initially a replication of Western findings, but lately also some original work. It is to be anticipated with certainty that very soon, we will be looking up to China for new advances in pig nutrition.
One of the differences that immediately gets noticed as one starts to study the Chinese way of doing things is that traditional Chinese medicine has not been fully recognized in Western countries. Nevertheless, this concept, with its own theoretical framework and practical applications, is focused on functions at the whole-body level. Gradually this concept is finding increasing acceptance worldwide, particularly as we have started to focus on whole-system applications (antibiotic-free production systems come to mind). And, of course, we should not forget the new trendy discipline of “-omics” that appear to become a must for most scientific fields.
Recent studies have indicated that certain Chinese herbs used as feed additives can modulate nutritional metabolism, immune responses, and the intestinal health of pigs and poultry, demonstrating potential as substitutes for dietary antibiotics. Of course, the Western world has had considerable experience in plant extracts, but compared to the Chinese array of potential substances, our experience is rather limited. Nonetheless, some issues need to be addressed before Chinese herbs can reach their full application, and, to this end, a review has been published in the Canadian Journal of Animal Science to describe recent progresses in scientific research of Chinese herbs as feed additives for swine and poultry production.