AVANT has been undertaking experimental field trials within the project and currently a trial is being carried out by a project partner, Schothorst Feed Research in the Netherlands.

Antibiotic resistance has emerged as one of the most pressing challenges of our time, threatening both human and animal health. The overuse of antibiotics in livestock in the realm of the pig farming  & pork industry, has exacerbated this crisis, raising concerns about consumer food safety  and environmental sustainability.

A safe and effective alternative to antibiotics in sows and piglets is crucial not only for the health and well-being of the animals but also for bolstering consumer trust in the food chain. Implementing such alternatives will not only mitigate the risks associated with antibiotic resistance but also contribute to the long-term sustainability of pig-farming practices and the broader food industry.

A study conducted in Denmark as part of the AVANT project suggested that feeding piglets with faeces of healthy sows  could potentially protect them against E. coli-induced diarrhea after weaning. To further investigate this, a large-scale follow-up trial is now underway at Schothorst Feed Research in the Netherlands. This trial aims to test the effectiveness of faecal filtrate transplantation (FFT)  under Dutch housing and management conditions in reducing post-weaning diarrhea and improving pig performance. Additionally, the trial will explore the impact of a feeding strategy involving alfalfa as dietary fiber, using a 2×2 factorial design after weaning.

Field trials in the Netherlands

In October 2023, trials with “faecal filtrate brewery” was initiated. It involved collecting fecal material from 15 healthy sows, termed ‘donors’, at the  Dutch trial site. This material was confirmed to be free of pathogens. The faecal material was then diluted in SM buffer to create a suspension. SM buffer is used to stabilize bacteriophages found in faeces, which are believed to contribute to the protective effects of faecal filtrate therapy (FFT).

Inoculation of newborn piglets

The trial involved 32 litters of newborn piglets

  • Inoculation was done for six consecutive days during the first week after birth.
  • Litters were divided into two groups for administering solutions; one group received SM buffer (control), the other received fecal filtrate. The solutions are administered via an oral drencher.
  • Piglets are checked for diarrhoeic peri-anal staining during handling.
  • The piglets are monitored through the weaning transition up to slaughter and faecal consistency was scored regularly.

Micro-filtration set-up to produce the faecal filtrate (Vibro-Lab3500, SANI Membranes, Farum, Denmark).

The control solution (left) and the faecal filtrate (right) from the field trials in the Netherlands

Healthy sows used as donor and newborn piglets asrecipients of the faecal filtrate.

Field trials updates

The trial has reached an interesting phase with the completion of the pre-weaning period. This marks a crucial stage for observing the main effects of faecal filtrate transplantation post-weaning. The daily faecal consistency and severity of diarrhea in these piglets after weaning, are being monitored regularly, both at the pen level and individually.

The faecal consistency assessment is still ongoing and the pigs will be under continuous tracking until slaughter to explore any potential long-term effects. We anticipate that this phase of the trial will yield valuable insights into the efficacy of faecal filtrate transplantation and dietary fibre intervention as alternative approaches to antimicrobials. Our hope is for the trial to proceed smoothly, unveiling new and intriguing findings along the way.

Pioneering antibiotic alternatives

These trials are a collaborative and well-researched effort, and aims to usher in a new data in pig farming and the pork industry by exploring safe and effective alternatives to antibiotics. AVANT seeks to address these issues by prioritizing both the well-being of animals and the integrity of the food chain. At the core of this endeavor lies a commitment to consumer trust. By providing viable alternatives to antibiotics, it aims to restore assurance in the safety and integrity of the food supply, fostering a healthier relationship between producers and consumers.

Harnessing the power of research and collaboration, the AVANT project seeks to empower farmers with the tools and knowledge needed to transition towards sustainable, antibiotic-free production methods. From feed formulations to disease prevention strategies, every aspect of pig farming is under scrutiny, with an eye towards optimizing health outcomes for both animals and consumers.