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Focus on gut microbiome for future of pig health

A Professor with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine says, as disease profiles have become more complex, the level of interest in the role of the gut microbiome in improving health has increased.

23 January 2020, at 10:36am

An "Overview of Pig Gut Health Challenges: From Birth to Market" was discussed earlier this month as part of a Swine Innovation Porc session on the microbiome held as part of the 2020 Banff Pork Seminar.

Dr John Harding, a Professor with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says an increase in the prevalence of enteric disease has heightened interest in the role of the microbiome in health.

"Diseases such as PED, which has had major effects on certain regions of the country, are certainly bringing to the forefront some of these diseases.

"In spite of that we're seeing the emergence of some other diseases as well. For instance swine dysentery has emerged over the last 10 years. We've seen Lawsonia. 10 to 20 years ago we didn't talk much about Lawsonia but now it's a common disease on our farms.

"I think, in some ways, diseases are becoming more complex because our farms are becoming more complex and larger. We're superimposing on this removal of antibiotics from farms.

"Certainly growth promotion antibiotics have been removed now and everybody is being a lot more judicious about using feed and water medications so I think overall medication use is going down and that will certainly have an impact.

"Then I think the other factor in the industry is probably just the whole economies of scale. Our farms have gotten bigger, pen sizes have gotten bigger, staffing levels have reduced, cost control has become much more of an issue, diets have become a little more complex, we have mycotoxins in various parts of the country.

"There's lots of different factors that have come over the last decade or so that are contributing to higher levels of enteric disease."

Dr Harding suggests the microbiome is a whole new frontier and we're just starting to understand what it is let alone what it does and how important it is.