CANADA - A researcher with the University of Alberta says early establishment of a healthy microbial population in the gut will improve the health of the pig throughout its lifetime, writes Bruce Cochrane.
Researchers working on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc are exploring the potential of harnessing beneficial bacteria to improve get health as one option of reducing pork producers' dependence on antibiotics.
Dr Ben Willing, an Assistant Professor with the University of Alberta and Canada Research Chair in Microbiology of Nutrigenomics, says the first thing researchers are looking to do is establish a healthy microbial community within piglets to set them up for later life, particularly weaning, when they are most susceptible to infections.
Dr Ben Willing-University of Alberta:
In that period we can both do things like feeding microbial populations that we think should be there and then the other strategy is to actually feed the sow so that the piglets get a better microbiome based on both the milk that she's delivering and also what microbes she passes to them by being in the same environment.
There's some research that's going on looking at different sow diets, particularly in the late gestation period and showing that microbial outcomes are improved for the piglets when it comes to their weaning time.
Then, later on, once the pigs are weaned, we need to provide them with diets that are going to maximize their intestinal defenses including some of the things where we're stimulating antimicrobial production in the gut.
Some of those plant extracts we've seen improve the mucus barrier.
On the intestinal epithelium there's a mucus layer that helps keep bacteria and pathogens away from the cell surface so certain plant extracts can increase the thickness of that barrier.
Dr Willing says microbial populations are seen as one of the most important resistance mechanisms an animal has.
He says we're always encountering new mechanisms for infections so driving gut health will help protect against everything that's going to come its way.
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