31 Oct

Precision feeding in pigs (Interview with Dr. Aline Remus)

nutriNews International had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Aline Remus regarding some of her research on precision feeding in pigs. Dr. Remus is a researcher at the Sherbrooke Research and Development Centre belonging to Agri Food Canada, Agri Research Canada.

Precision feeding in pigs (Interview with Dr. Aline Remus)

Dr. Edgar Oviedo collaborator and co corresponding author for nutriNews International had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Aline Remus regarding some of her research on precision feeding in pigs. Dr. Remus is a researcher at the Sherbrooke Research and Development Centre belonging to Agri Food Canada, Agri Research Canada. This interview took place during the 7th EAAP International Symposium on Energy and Protein Metabolism and Nutrition (ISEP 2022) held in Granada (Spain) from September 12-15, 2022.


Dr. Oviedo: We are here at ISEP 2022 with Dr. Aline Remus who will be presenting during the conference. She will be talking about the research that they are conducting on individual variability of pig performance.

I want to thank you Aline for participating in this interview series for our podcast channel. I like to star off by asking you about how you are carrying out this research, and what have been your findings up until now?

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Dr. Aline Remus: Thank you for having me. It is a pleasure to be here with you today. My primary research focus is on precision feeding and nutrition in growing and finishing pigs. Where we try to understand the variability in animal’s growth performance. If you look at animals that have the same genetics, similar body weight, similar age, they still grow at different rates. We see very heterogeneous populations within our farms, which means there is great variability when we reach slaughter weight, and this results in significant economic losses. As we should have animals that should arrive the slaughterhouses at 120 kg, at least for here in Canada, but we are seeing animals that arrive with 80 kg, others at 150 kg and this is a problem. Besides this, we are feeding these animals equally which increases the costs, as well a generating significant environmental impact. Due to the fact that animals have different nutritional requirements, and if we don’t account fo this, we may be feeding animals in excess in regards to their requirements, while we may be underfeeding others and losing performance. Therefore, if we can understand how they use nutrients differently, we can tailor the diets of each individual to maximize growth performance, profitability while decreasing environmental impacts. So, it’s in this line that we are trying to work.

Dr. Aline Remus: Something that we have observed is that when pigs are in the post weaning stage, they arrive with similar weights, but then we provide them with standard diets and they use these nutrients differently. Therefore, within the same group you will have animals with high, medium and low protein deposition, and we want to understand what is the cause of this variability. Our findings have shown that pigs with high protein deposition tend to be very efficient in in their use of nutrients, so in this case there is not much more than we can do as they are already performing at their top capacity.   However, when we look at our low protein deposition pigs which are those that are growing at a slower rate, have a lower Average Daily Gain (ADG), they have some markers related to inflammation, to oxidative stress, etc. So, can we maybe modulate their diets, to allow these animals to have better tools to deal with these metabolic problems. Which many times go unnoticed because they don’t show any clinical signs. However, these animals are underperforming and growing slower. Therefore, maybe we ca use different amino acid formulations, we can use other feed additives like enzymes, and try to improve their gut health. There is still a piece of the puzzle that need to be solved, but these are ways in which we can try to achieve more homogenous groups by targeting those animalswith slower growth rates. With precision feeding we can actually tailor the diets of those slow growing animals and try to bring them up to be more homogenous and recover their performance to some extent. Even if we don’t get them to be completely homogenous, we can create a diet that does not cost as much for the producer. If we are not able to get them to recover, we can at least create a diet that uses less nutrients accepting this performance loss but reducing costs for the producer.

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Dr. Oviedo: Ok. Finally, you presented several papers here where you talked about the expression of certain genes. Could you summarize what is the main finding within your research, that can explain why pigs with similar genetic profiles and similar backgrounds end up using nutrients so differently. I believe that in a couple of these papers you did a wonderful job at showing this and from what I gather it sometimes does not seem that way, is this right?

Dr. Aline Remus: That is right. So, in addition to the data that I have shown here in the conference, we have seen that there are animals that exhibit insulin resistance.  Other papers presented here at the conference have shown that pigs that present low birth weights, are likely to develop insulin resistance and it is something that we seeing quite frequently. Pigs which then arrive at the slaughterhouse being very fat, with approximately 22% body fat, and they are resistant to insulin.  Something else that we have seen, is that they have markers for genes that are associated to inflammation and oxidative stress. These animals are most likely employing different pathways t use nutrients, and even though we may be giving them the same well-balanced diets they have different metabolic conditioning that probably comes from birth or it can even come from the sow. We don’t know this yet, but our idea is to find out how we can reprogram this metabolic resistance that we find in these animals. Hence, if I can summarize this, I can say that if we have animals that are growing slower, they will grow with a different body composition, and if I can give you a tip in this regard, it is that feed conversion rate will not show this. You can have animals with very good conversion rates, and this does not mean that they are having lean gain. Thus. This is something to look after in our farms, when we are only establishing requirements on gain to feed, or feed conversion, we may not be considering the carcass quality of these animals.

Dr. Oviedo: Thank you Aline and everyone for their attention. We hope to have you back for future podcasts and interviews! Thank you!!

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