A new probiotic for pigs could mean less manure to manage, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) studies. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists conducted the first published investigation of the use of bacteria as a probiotic to increase fibre fermentation rates and reduce manure output in pigs that consume high-fibre diets. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

Pig producers would like to supplement livestock feed with dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) and other agricultural co-products generated from biofuel production. But adding hard-to-digest fibre to livestock diets also increases the production of manure.

Microbiologist Cherie Ziemer and animal scientist Brian Kerr at the ARS Agroecosystems Management Research Unit in Ames, Iowa, fed the pigs in their study either a typical diet or a high-fibre diet. The high-fibre diet contained 10 percent soybean hulls and 20 percent corn DDGS.

The pigs were also given one of three bacterial supplements the scientists developed from different strains of Bacteroides ovatus, which had been obtained from human faecal samples and cultured in fibre-rich media. The three bacterial supplements were

designated Bacterium B, C, and D. Pigs that received the bacterial supplements designated as Bacterium B reduced

their manure output by 20 percent. These pigs also gained more weight and had improved blood cholesterol and glucose levels, both indications of an improved energy status, compared to pigs not given probiotics.

Ziemer believes the probiotic could improve pig performance and reduce manure volumes, which in turn would increase producer profits and reduce the environmental footprint of pork production. She thinks the bacterium could be fed in a liquid supplement or possibly freeze-dried and mixed with feed.

Meanwhile, in the UK, a return to positive margins over recent months is rejuvenating producer confidence to invest for the future for the first time in three years. This is the main finding of a British Pig Executive (BPEX) Confidence Survey. On top of that, the industry is bullish in terms of improving its competitiveness relative to the rest of the EU which, in turn, means capital expenditure is planned on replacement buildings.