Balancing good and bad bacteria key to effective gut health, nutrient absorption

Developing techniques and tools to encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut is key to producing healthier pigs that require fewer antibiotics over the long term, according to swine nutritionist Daniel Nelson, PhD.
calendar icon 2 January 2018
clock icon 2 minute read

The challenge is consistency, he told Pig Health Today.

While alternative treatments such as probiotics — live bacteria that have been linked to improving gut health — have shown promise in some trials, questions remain about their efficacy and returns herd after herd.

“If we can create a healthier gut by reducing bad bacteria, then we have a gut that’s more capable of absorbing nutrients from feed,” said Nelson, a senior technical service specialist for Zoetis.

“At the moment, nothing works on a consistent basis like antibiotics,” he added.

Nelson said it was important to remember that not all antibiotics work the same way. If producers work with their veterinarians to use them responsibly and strategically, they can reduce populations of bad bacteria while allowing the growth of good bacteria. The result, he added, is almost always improved herd health and performance.

Looking to the future, Nelson thinks scientists need to identify more consistent ways to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria through changes to animal diets.

“[That means] finding the good bacteria and pinning down the nutrients that bacteria needs, and feeding that to the pig.”

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