The right guts for it
At Topigs Norsvin we are investigating if selection can be performed on the microbe population in the large intestine of pigs. These microbes vary in their ability to ferment fibers and that influences a pig’s ability to utilize dietary nutrients. Improving the microbe population could
Large nutrient components have to be broken down into smaller molecules by means of enzymatic digestion for nutrients to be absorbed from the diet. The small intestine is the main site for this enzymatic digestion of nutrients. The digestion of starch, proteins, and fats is facilitated by the pig’s enzymes.
Fibers, however, cannot be digested by the pig’s enzymes and so pigs depend on enzymes produced by microbes to use the energy stored in fibers. This process is called fermentation. Fiber digestion in the small intestine is limited (~20%). The main site for fermentation is the large intestine. Fiber fermentation is important not only for the energy released from the fiber molecules, but also for the digestion of other nutrients. Therefore a microbial population that facilitates proper fermentation enhances feed efficiency by increasing nutrient uptake from the diet.
Research has shown that pigs largely have the same microbe populations but that several distinct groups of microbes are breed specific. Based on this information we are investigating the microbial population variation within breeds to see if there is a relationship between nutrient digestibility of certain genotypes and microbial composition in the large intestine. If we can find a relationship, we might be able to breed pigs with an improved fiber digestion. This is important because it is expected that the trend for more fibrous diets will increase due to higher feed ingredient costs.