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"More attention please, for effects of feed on health"

Should pigs receive feed for not only growth purposes, but to keep them healthy as well? For Prof Dr Josef Kamphues, University of Veterinary Medicine, Hanover, Germany, that is a rhetoric question. He launches a plea to look at things from a different perspective.

Specialised in animal nutrition and intestinal health, German professor Josef Kamphues has been around in the area of animal health for many years. Since 1993 he has been leading the Institute for Animal Nutrition of the University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo) in Hanover, Germany.

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Prof Kamphues is not afraid to share his opinion and he is aware that his ideas do not always make a perfect match with common practice in the pig business. If it would all come down to Prof Kamphues, pig producers should start weaning their piglets at 5-6 weeks. That would make weaning diarrhoea in the vast amount of cases a problem of the past.

Pig Progress: How important is gastro-intestinal health for pigs?

Prof Kamphues: “Enormously important. In 40% of the cases in which veterinary antibiotics are being applied, the problems are related to digestive problems in pigs. I am convinced that when compiling and producing feed rations or compound feeds, technical results should not be the only consideration. The influence of the feed on pig health should receive more attention. It is important to work hard on this theme in the years to come.”

Prof Dr Kamphues, while speaking at the Higher Pig Health event in the Netherlands in January 2018. Photo: Koos Groenewold
Prof Dr Kamphues, while speaking at the Higher Pig Health event in the Netherlands in January 2018. Photo: Koos Groenewold

To what extent can animal nutrition play a role?

“The grinding and pelleting of raw materials goes against the stomach’s health and function as well as animal welfare. It is really bad, as it happens, to grind raw materials until nothing is left but finely ground feed. Feed is not only supposed to get animals growing, but also to keep them healthy. So the processing technology plays an important role to keep the pigs’ stomachs in top condition.”

Is it realistic to aim for a pig business without antibiotics?

“Yes – but under one condition: everybody will have to accept that the rate of animal losses in the pig business will grow significantly due to a rise in infections. This is where various demands collide. People demand a reduction in the usage of antibiotics. It is, however, also important to keep the rate of losses low and guarantee animal welfare. Vaccinations are an important tool to allow the reduction of antibiotics.”

The entire interview with Prof Dr Kamphues can be found at the website of All About Feed.



Prof Dr Josef Kamphues has been leading the Institute for Animal Nutrition since 1993, this is a part of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation. Prior to that, he had a similar position in Berlin, Germany. Prof Kamphues spoke at the Higher Pig Health event, in January 2018, which was coordinated by Boerderij, a Dutch-language sister title to Pig Progress.



  • Lino Tioli

    Dr. Tioli - Italy
    I agree with Prof. Kamphues. On my experience the size of row material like the kind, is quite important to avoid diarrhea in piglets. Also using Hypoclorous Acid in drinking water and as fog in delivery rooms, can strongly help to contrast pathogens.

  • Mike VARLEY

    This is an absolutely laudable ple for more work on nutrition and health but before this we need to commission some detailed fundamental work on the effects of nutritional components on immunological factors. We have some work relating to net energy relationships but that is nearly all. Professor Mike Varley.

  • Magnus Nicolson

    Where a specific pathogen is causing a problem antibiotics could be removed and replaced by bacteriophages the natural enemy of bacteria attached to the feed. This would be a low cost and safe alternative and make "weaning" the industry off antibiotics far easier than simply accepting increased animal losses.

  • Lino Tioli

    To Magnus Nicolson
    We know bacteriophages technology but it's not so easy and cheap to apply.
    If you have more infos on this, please let me know.
    Dr. Lino Tioli

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