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Source: Alltech news release

How can the pig industry stay profitable in the face of high feed costs, increased government regulations and intensifying consumer demands? This was the focus of Alltech's 10th Pig Solutions Seminar held in Hannover, Germany, Nov. 12.

Professor Denise Kelly, Rowett Research Institute, first presented on the role of gut microbiota in gut health. The most startling revelation came from her current research: piglets from outdoor reared sows were colonized by good bacteria, mostly lactobacilli.

In comparison to these were pigs reared in barns, including those fed antibiotics. The barn-reared pigs were overwhelmingly colonized by different bacteria, including proteobacteria such as E-coli, which she referred to as pathobionts and had a significant, visible effect on gene regulation in the gut.

"What was interesting is that most of the gene changes were associated with the immune response. This data indicated that the conditions animals were raised in had a consistent and large effect on gene expression patterns," she explained. "Animals raised indoors and in isolators with antibiotics showed very significant up-regulation of genes, governing the inflammatory response, and animals in the outdoor group had significant down-regulation of these genes."

Dr. Hans Stein, University of Illinois, focused on increasing efficiency in his presentation, specifically in relation to phosphorus. His method for calculating the standardized total tract digestibility of phosphorus involved subtracting the basal endogenous losses of phosphorus from apparent total tract digestibility.

This enables a more accurate calculation for the amount of phosphorus available in mixed diets. This means that it is possible to only feed the required amount of phosphorus, thus reducing excretion and benefitting the environment.

An additional effect is the accurate determination of how much phytase to add to diets, so that nutritionists are not over or under adding, increasing efficiency and control over costs.

The third speaker, Nigel Penligton, BPEX Division, United Kingdom, discussed his Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) tool that allows producers to measure the chosen environmental impacts of pig production and to model predicted change. He explained that sustainable livestock production requires precision feeding of nutritionally-balanced ingredients to deliver the best product yield at an affordable price.

Professor Michael Brumm, Brumm Swine Consultancy and the University of Minnesota, gave an overview of the steps needed to produce the pig of the future, covering noticeable trends in pork production that cannot be avoided.

Some of these include the capabilities of genetic suppliers to link genetic populations in different countries and hemispheres for genetic improvement decisions, increasing genetic progress. In production units, this means that nutritional and housing needs will evolve at ever increasing rates as the expected animal response in terms of growth and productivity improves.

Production facilities should plan for the continued increase in slaughter weights. In North America and Europe, there is an increased demand by consumers for 'traceability' in their food supply. A new metric for pork production will be total water use per unit of production.

The fifth and final message from the Pig Solutions Seminar came from Dr. Kate Jacques, Alltech. In her presentation on the new frontiers in programmed nutrition, she discussed the advent of DNA microarray methods in food animal research and how it is changing the future for animal nutrition. This shift in industry focus changes the priority from just getting more nutrients into the animal, to understanding the degree to which each nutrient affects animal production at the cell and tissue levels.

"The ability to chart gene expression affords a new way to measure response to dietary change and sheds new light on the complex nature of digestion and metabolism," said Dr. Jacques.

"Perhaps even more importantly, following gene expression broadens the way we think of nutrients and nutrient requirements. Now, in addition to their chemical roles as building blocks, energy sources or co-factors, we now recognize that often nutrients function as gene 'switches' with the ability to modulate gene expression," said Dr. Jacques.

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