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Understanding the microbiome is fundamental to good pig husbandry

By better understanding the bacterial populations in the gut of the pig, scientists hope to create strategies to promote health and productivity.

15 October 2019, at 1:47pm

Scientists with the Universities of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Guelph working on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc in partnership with several commercial interests are examining the microbiome, the composition of bacterial populations in the gut of the pig, to get a picture of the diversity of those populations under different commercial conditions in which pigs are raised.

young pigs huddled together in a pen

Speaking to Farmscape, Dr Andrew Van Kessel, the Head of the Department of Animal and Poultry Science with University of Saskatchewan, says these populations are diverse and are impacted by such factors as diet, environment and genetics and the challenge is to better understand which ones are beneficial.

"The major effort here is really to get a better understanding of the factors within the gastrointestinal tract, particularly the diverse consortia and abundant consortia of bacterial species that live in the gastrointestinal tract of animals that contribute to pig health.

"As the industry understands, in the past we've relied significantly on antibiotics to support pig health and performance.

"Given that we know that the consortia of bacteria that live in the pig's intestine is an important modulator of gastrointestinal health, we want to understand what groups of bacteria are beneficial, what are perhaps harmful in an effort that at some point in the future we can better design nutrition, management, feed additive strategies that promote the beneficial bacteria and therefore promote gut health and aid in disease prevention."

Dr Van Kessel says, if scientists are successful in identifying which bacteria promote performance or factors from the sow that promote the best succession in the piglet, we can see a future where we can identify strategies that promote those beneficial bacteria and improve health and performance.