Microbiome Research Lays Foundation for Development of Tools to Improve Pig Health

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Farmscape for May 27, 2022

Full Interview 12:11 Listen

Research into the microbiome of piglets conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc is assisting in creating new tools to increase the productivity of the swine herd. Preliminary results of research being conducted by the Universities of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Guelph in partnership with Swine Innovation Porc, Calpis, Cargill, Phileo, and Evonik indicate the bacteria that live in the gut of piglets influences their overall health and can be used to improve their lifetime productivity. Dr. Bonita McCuaig, a postdoctoral research fellow with University of Saskatchewan, says the introduction of beneficial bacteria has the potential to improve feed efficiency and piglet health and may reduce the need for antibiotics.

Clip-Dr. Bonita McCuaig-University of Saskatchewan:
The early results suggest that the health outcomes are linked to the microbiome in young piglets and it does look like we will be able to identify some bacteria that are beneficial. A lot of the information generated from this will mostly be applied to create more targeted research. Once we have these more specific theories, we can generate experiments to test those theories. If we identify a bacteria that we think is beneficial we can perhaps expose young piglets to it and see if it improves their heath compared to piglets that aren’t exposed.
The other thing that I am working on is trying to create a model that will predict whether piglets will become sick based on their microbiome at a young age. Potentially this model could be used to separate piglets with good microbiomes from piglets with bad microbiomes early on in the process but these are still pretty theoretical and would need to be tested further before they could be applied to industry.

Dr. McCuaig says researchers do hope to develop tools that will be useful to the pig industry but the exact nature of those tools will depend on the results of this work.

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