MURDOCH University and the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) are investigating sulphur amino acids as a nutritional component of pig herd health in relation to supporting immune function.
Pork CRC recently announced significant funding to research aims to enhance animal health, while reducing therapeutic antibiotic use in commercial pork production.
Professor John Pluske, Dr Jae Kim and Dr Bruce Mullan are co-investigators of the program which aims to reduce the risk of E. coli-associated disease.
“Our research on nutritional manipulation is aimed at supplying correct amounts of amino acids that are associated with immune function in pigs so that their immune systems are better able to fight E.coli bacteria and other pathogens, without compromising growth and wellbeing of pigs” says Dr Jae Kim.
The research team tested the hypothesis that pigs whose immune system has been challenged will respond to higher levels of sulphur amino acid levels than those without chronic immune system activation.
Findings reported by Dr Jae Kim indicate that when pigs’ immune system is activated, more sulphur amino acid is required to support maximum performance and body protein deposition.
Thus, increasing dietary sulphur amino acids for growing/finishing pigs in a commercial farm (less hygienic) is a requirement for immune response as well as growth.
Reducing the risk of E. coli-associated disease by establishing a fibre recommendation after weaning and by manipulating inflammatory responses with antioxidants will be ongoing research due to WA receiving part of the $750,000 in funds Pork CRC has allocated to Herd health management.
Variables studied in herd health include: daily growth rate, feed intake, feed conversion ratio, plasma urea for nitrogen utilisation efficiency, plasma acute-phase protein content and plasma pro-inflammatory cytokines.
“If pigs are not growing or utilise feeds as efficiently as expected than this is a good indicator for compromised herd health – although the cause can be variable,” says Dr Jae Kim.
Plasma measures from individual pigs can be an indicator of compromised health.
Dr Jae Kim says visual inspection is also an indicator as veterinarians and stock personnel can record [visually] recognisable signs such as diarrhoea; change of skin colour and general well-being of pigs.
The research is part of the High Integrity Australian Pork initiative that saw $4.6 million being allocated last year and $2.7 million this year.
Dr Roger Campbell, CEO of CRC for High Integrity Australian Pork, reports he is pleased to see system-changing innovative research conducted by CRC participant researchers and all the positive changes in the industry.