In what type of activities have you been involved within CIRCLES?
‘The first thing we did after the start of the CIRCLES project in 2018 was to analyse the status quo. This process is called the observation phase. During this phase, we initially observe how the pigs perform with their ‘normal’ feed composition. This is done by taking DNA samples from the food and by looking at the microbiome composition of the mixture. Besides the analysis of the feed microbiome, we also look at the microbiome composition of the animals, the environment and the workers at the farms.
Next comes the intervention phase – where things get interesting! The so-called ‘interventions’ are set up, where we include some specific ingredients or raw materials to the feed mixture, and we repeat the sampling and analysis procedures. This particularly interests us because we want to see if the pigs perform better with the renewed feed mixture or not, and what role do microbiomes play in this process.
Regarding microbiomes, my team is specifically interested in the inclusion of probiotics. Of course, many probiotics are already used in feed mixtures and registered at EU level, but we aim to analyse their potential thoroughly and more in depth. With regard to nutrients, we are particularly interested in fiber. We expect fibers to have a positive effect on the health and growth of the piglets.’
What are the next steps?
‘This question remains to be clarified! Covid-19 has had quite some impact on our timeline, for instance, we haven’t been able to start with the intervention phase yet. With all the uncertainty it’s difficult to say when operations will be able to start again. If I have to give an indication I would say around March 2021. Let’s hope for the best!’