PhD candidate 'Improving low protein diets to prevent behavioural problems in pigs'

Updated: about 2 months ago
Job Type: Temporary
Deadline: 01 May 2020

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate with a keen interest in understanding the relationship between nutrition and the behaviour of pigs.
There are strong environmental and economic incentives to increase the efficiency of conversion of protein in diets for farm animals into edible products. It is a major scientific and societal challenge to obtain further progress in this field. In growing pigs, the reduction of the dietary protein concentration significantly contributes to this goal and thereby to the sustainability of animal production.
The inclusion of limiting, essential amino acids as feed additives in diets for livestock is generally considered to prevent dietary amino acid deficiencies in diets with reduced protein concentration. Recent research has shown, however, that lowering the protein concentration in diets for pigs can be at the expense of the capabilities of pigs to cope with their environment, and increases specific behavioural problems such as tail and ear biting. Outbreaks of these behaviours and the wounds they cause lead to stress, inflammation, infections, reduced growth and increased carcass condemnation and thus result in poor welfare and substantial economic losses.

Acting within a Public Private Partnership (TKI Agri & Food), employed by Wageningen Livestock Research, you will work closely together with researchers from the Animal Nutrition and the Adaptation Physiology Groups of Wageningen University, Wageningen Livestock Research and with three private partners active in the animal nutrition sector. The consortium aims for developing applications of innovations to be applied in practice and transfer knowledge and innovations to the professionals in the feed industry. Within this project, we aim to 1) understand the relationship between the feeding of low-protein diets and the occurrence of damaging behaviours in pigs; 2) identify the potential of (groups of) amino acids when supplemented to the diet can reduce damaging behaviours in pigs; 3) explore the potential of in-feed and choice-fed amino acid supplementation approaches to supplement pigs via the diet with specific combinations of amino acids in periods following reduced growth, sickness or stress.


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