The effects of dietary protein in both maternal and weaning diets on the performance and gut health of piglets

Newly weaned piglets are susceptible to gut health related problems such as weaning diarrhea as a result of stress. A reduced protein diet can have positive effects on the prevalence of this diarrhea, which is so far still a large post of antibiotic use for pig farmers. Several hypotheses exist to explain the positive effects of a low protein diet on gut health, all related to an interaction between diet-host-microbiota. In addition, low protein diets result in a reduction of ammonia production in the pig, reducing therefore their negative impact on the environment. This project researches the effects of a reduced dietary protein, at both maternal as well as piglet level, and by this will try to solve these two problems while maintaining a comparable production performance as seen when fed a normal protein diet.

Gut health problems are multifactorial and strongly related to feed (nutrients, additives and contaminants), the host’s mucosa (genetics, immunology, nervous system), and gut microbiota (commensals and potential pathogens). In this study, we’ll try to focus on the effects of dietary protein levels as holistically as possible. What is the influence of dietary protein given maternally during gestation and/or directly to the piglet on its gut function? Is there a difference in performance between the treatment groups? Are these differences maintained till arrival at the slaughterhouse? How does the protein diets change microbiota composition? What is the effect on metabolite production of the microbiota? Those are all questions we’ll try to answer in this project. The goal is to create a platform to help farmers increase gut health in piglets and to give more insights into the effects of protein on the gut.