Housing systems and their influence on porcine intestinal microbiota


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Housing systems present themselves in different types within pig production, and they are used to different extents. However, little is known about their effect on the composition of intestinal microbiota.

housing systems

A correct colonization of the intestinal tract, especially during the initial phases of life is fundamental for any individual. The quality of this colonization to some extent, will determine the onset of digestive disorders during the first weeks of life and can even affect intestinal homeostasis on the long term.

Gut microbiota plays an important role in the host’s health:

 microbiota intestinal porcina


Colonization of the gastrointestinal(GI) tract

housing systemsColonization of the intestinal tract of piglets begins at the time of birth by the microbiota present in thematernal genital and intestinal tract. Soon after, this colonization is complemented by the microbiota present in the environment.

housing systems

Depending on management and production conditions, the importance of maternal and environmental microbiota sources varies considerably. In the case of pig production, cleaning procedures carried out before sows enter the maternity ward substantially reduce the presence of environmental microbiota.

Despite this, it is difficult to predict to what extent are sows responsible for the gut microbiota that piglets develop:


⇒A study showed that the administration of probiotics to sows during gestation affects the composition of piglets’ microbiota, suggesting that a maternal influence exists.

⇒ On the other hand, a greater similarity has been found in the microbiota of piglets housed in the same pen compared to that of piglets housed separately. Which implies that there is an environmental effect.

Currently, pig production systems offer different environmental conditions, varying from conventional systems to ecological systems.

However, when comparing the microbiota composition of pigs raised in both systems, no significant differences were observed.


Similarly, no major differences have been found when comparing the microbiota of pigs housed indoors with that of pigs housed outdoors.

When it comes to gestation rooms, the most commonly used system is slat pens. However, the use of straw-enriched systems on the ground is becoming more popular.

⇒  In enriched systems, a decrease in stress levels and the consumption of straw containing non-digestible fiber could have an impact on gut microbiota.


Along with the previous studies, an evaluation was made to determine if the type of housing used in gestation influences the development of piglets’ intestinal microbiota during the first day of life.


housing systems


Variations in intestinal microbiota composition

Conventional Pens vs Enriched Pens


In order to determine how the type of housing in gestation influences the composition of sows’ intestinal microbiota, two study groups were formed consisting of Large-White x Landrace sows subjected to the same management system but housed in different types of pens during gestation.

At day 105 of gestation, all sows were transferred to identical calving cages and a slat floor.

housing systems

The study was replicated three times (April 2014, September, 2014 and January 2015), taking fecal samples from sows at the time of calving and from piglets 1 and 4 days old (A total of 139 fecal samples was collected).


housing systems


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