Impact of early gut microflora colonization on foraging behaviour in pigs

Last changed: 17 September 2020
Piglets nursing on a sow. Photo.

Investigating the microbiota-gut-brain axis in pigs

The aim of this project is to identify strategies that will stimulate early explorative sampling of food items in piglets and thereby initiate early maturation of the gut and the gut microbiota. Foraging and feed ingestion accelerates the intestinal colonization towards a more mature microbiota and accelerates intestinal maturation, thereby reducing post-weaning enteric health problems in piglets. Moreover, diet ingredient composition (e.g. fiber sources) will have an impact on the gut microbiome composition and the resulting profile of short-chain fatty acids produced during fermentation.

Our working hypothesis is that intestinal microbiota colonization pattern exerts long-term effects on intestinal homeostasis with impact on behaviour through the microbiota-gut-brain axis. We will investigate this by experimentally manipulating and documenting the gut microbiome, by learning and memory tests and by observations of growth, health and behaviour. To study the impact of early feed ingestion we will give piglets an oral supplement of soluble fiber during the suckling period. To study the impact of diet fiber composition we will feed piglets with two contrasting pre-weaning diets (one arabinose-rich diet and one xylose-rich diet). In a parallel study we will also investigate the relationship between gut microbiota and tail biting behaviour. Reducing piglet diarrhoea and tail biting, will not only improve pig welfare, but will contribute to a reduction in the use of antibiotics.

Project manager:

Johan Dicksved,