Development of “synbiotic” formulas as a feed additive to modulate the intestinal health and microbiota of piglets from birth until adulthood

Meat production is growing rapidly in the world. Pig production has increased by 30% since the end of the 1990s. The efficiency and profitability of pig production depends on the health of pigs. Since 2006, Europe banned the use of antibiotics as a growth promoter to counter the development of bacterial resistance.  

In the pig industry, weaning (interrupting breastfeeding and switching to dry foods) is a risk-associated period for young animals that causes significant environmental, nutritional and psychological stress in piglets. The challenges occurring at weaning could be prevented or treated by the addition of mineral compounds, such as ZnO and CuSO4, or antibiotics in the feed. Unfortunately, all of these can induce bacterial resistance and environmental problems (contamination of water tables by the minerals contained in the slurry).

In Belgium, the aim is to limit the use of these minerals and reduce up to 50% of the therapeutic use of antibiotics by 2020. It is therefore urgent to find new and effective alternatives to avoid the (ab)-use of antibiotics to reduce the incidence and severity of digestive problems in the post-weaning period. To achieve this goal numerous studies have demonstrated the ability of probiotics and prebiotics to rebalance gut microbiota, promote gut health and strengthen the immune system.

PORCBIOTA’s main objective is the development and marketing of an innovative symbiotic feed supplement that can be administered as part of early programming in the piglet, either during late gestation in the sow or soon after birth in the piglet. This feed supplement will then make it possible to obtain protection of the pig from birth to slaughter, thanks to a persistence in the intestinal microbiota. The project will evaluate the influence of such intervention in the improvement of the welfare of the animals.

The problem of antibiotic resistance concerns all species and currently no adequate solution is available. As a result, the strategies and supplements that will result from the project have the potential to be translatable from pig production to poultry production, companion animals and even humans.