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Researchers and Industry Team Up to Tackle Pig Health

There may be no “I” in team, but Genome Alberta researchers have their eyes on boosting pig health by teaming up with a range of partners. Their two-pronged approach aims to enhance disease resilience while managing the nutritional content of pig feed to optimize the gut microbiome and produce healthier pigs. It was the latter prong that prompted Alltech – a company focused on animal nutrition and health – to provide funding and technical support to the project.

“A lot of the Genome Alberta-led research is looking at the microbiome and how to manipulate it, which fits well with our work on culling the bad bacteria from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract,” said Paul Groenewegen, director of innovation and nutrition with Masterfeeds, an Alltech company.

One step back, many steps forward

When making a change in production, Groenewegen said you must always go one step back. For example, if your focus is the baby pig microbiome, you must know what’s going on with the sow. To that end, Alltech introduced technology called Bio-Mos 20 years ago which greatly improved sow and piglet health while drastically reducing antibiotic use.

“The data showed that Bio-Mos improved growth rate and feed efficiency in growing pigs so it ties in nicely with the Genome Alberta research.”

Another Alltech innovation called ActigenTM that helps animals reach their genetic potential is also figuring prominently in this project in relation to piglet feed post-weaning.

On the right tract

“When the sow farrows, what’s the first thing the piglet lands in? You’d better make sure the sow is looked after and that her GI tract and the bacteria colonizing it are being addressed.”

That was the rationale behind the “seed-feed-weed” project that Alltech started with poultry and is now applying to pigs: Seed good bacteria into the GI tract, feed those good bacteria and then weed out the bad ones.

Further solidifying the Alltech-Genome Alberta relationship is alignment of the research with a core principle of the company called ACE. This ensures that Alltech technologies benefit the animal, the animal products benefit the consumer, and all benefit with minimal impact on the environment.

“By improving GI health, you are not only enhancing animal health but also food safety for consumers as you can reduce the potential pathogen load on meat. At the same time, the boost in feed efficiency lowers pig excretions which is better for the environment.”

In the eyes of both parties to this partnership, such “big picture” thinking is critical in defining success.

Big picture thinking is no small feat

“This is about using technology to dig deeper into science and understand the mechanisms around gut health to get better utilization and performance. Ultimately, the Genome Alberta-led project aims to elevate the health of both pigs and the Canadian pork industry itself.”

To make the project’s potential more concrete, Groenewegen pointed to the recent Alltech One Ideal Conference. One of the featured speakers talked about the power of lowering piglet attrition rate through advanced nutritional programs during lactation and post-wean.

“If you can save one extra piglet per sow per litter, it amounts to about 200 million extra pigs every year globally. That will have a huge impact on the competitiveness of our industry and its ability to feed a growing world population.”  

So while there are no “I’s” in team, there are two in “competitive” and “innovation”. If researchers and industry can work together to apply cutting edge technology and achieve their common goals, the result will be a stronger industry, greener product and happier consumer. Regardless of your viewpoint, that is surely a sight for sore eyes.  


Researchers and Industry Team Up to Tackle Pig Health

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