‘Microbial diversity’ was the theme of a recent webinar, held by Pig Progress in co-operation with animal nutrition and health company Alltech.
Speaking at the webinar was Dr Richard Murphy, research director at Alltech European Biosciences Centre in Dunboyne, Ireland. The webinar was broadcast live from Amsterdam on Wednesday, 14 June 2016.
Diversity of the microbiota in pig gut
Key to the webinar was the growing understanding that the diversity of the microbiota in the gastro-intestinal tract is directly related to the question of how healthy a pig is. For a long time, excessive usage of antibiotics erased pathogens but also strongly reduced microbial diversity.
Speaker Dr Richard Murphy, research director at the Alltech European Biosciences Centre, Ireland (left) and Vincent ter Beek, editor Pig Progress. Photo: Anne Salden
Even nowadays, with antibiotics being used more prudently, the challenges of modern production practices can restrict the diversity of the gastro-intestinal microflora. This results in some instances in an unhealthy imbalance, which can lead to the development of a vicious cycle of pathogen colonisation and recolonisation.
Gut health and its management
Dr Murphy said, “Gut health and its management is an intricate and complex area governed by numerous factors, including nutrition, microbiology, immunology and physiology.”
He continued to say, “When gastrointestinal health is compromised, nutrient digestion and absorption are affected, feed conversion becomes reduced and susceptibility to disease is heightened, ultimately resulting in a negative economic impact.”
Microflora diversity and gut health
Dr Murphy also highlighted that microbial diversity is key to gut health stating that the diversity of the microbiome plays a critical role in gut health, with beneficial microbes forming a protective barrier lining the gut that prevents the growth of pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridia and Escherichia, amongst others.
He indicated that one way to address microbial repair is to use a feed supplement that focuses on diversifying and stabilising the gut microflora. He said that mannan-rich fractions (MRFs) isolated from the yeast cell wall as a functional ingredient are currently being used for microbial control.
He pointed out that Alltech developed an Antibiotic Reduction Programme to support producers as they transition their animals to minimise antibiotic usage while maintaining health and productivity. It is a programme including preventive medicine, management and nutrition solutions to minimise antibiotic use on pig farms.