Protein nutrition and gut health in weaner pigs


The level of dietary protein for weaner pigs, especially for the first two weeks or so post weaning, has traditionally been relatively high with the aim of assisting the weaning process, he notes.

However, research over the last few decades has shown that whilst the goal of these high levels of dietary protein is to support optimal growth, such quantities are also risk factors for (sub-clinical) post weaning colibacilossis and transient diarrhea, and, as such the net benefit of using high protein diets on productivity may be limited, cautions Houdijk.

Excess protein 

A key component linking dietary protein levels and gut health is the amount of excess protein, he added.

Through numerous research projects over the last few years, Houdijk has been involved in the nutritional sensitivity of sub-clinical post weaning colibacillosis. At Young Animal Nutrition 2020​ in March, he will tell us about the approaches taken, the insights to date, and the gaps in knowledge that remain. His talk will reference how:

  • Protein quantity and quality in the immediate post weaning period influence resilience and resistance to experimentally induced sub-clinical post weaning colibacilossis
  • Acute phase proteins as markers for sub-clinical post weaning colibacilossis are sensitive to protein nutrition
  • Longer term impacts on pig performance have been established
  • Next generation sequencing has revealed significant shifts in microbiome characterization in especially small intestinal content, and
  • Next steps – towards weaner pig amino acid nutrition to satisfy essential amino acid requirements at a minimal level of excess protein to optimize gut health


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