This study will help farmers to improve the quality of their feed, and ultimately improve the growth and feed efficiency of their herd
James Cullen, a past pupil of Good Counsel College, New Ross, Co Wexford is one of 9 PhD students at South East Technological University (WIT) to be awarded an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship.
A record cohort of SETU researchers succeeded in securing funding under the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Programme this year, which will see a total of €28m in funding for new research projects including 254 postgraduate scholarships and 76 postdoctoral fellowships.
EIRC and Teagasc
James is conducting a PhD by research on the microbial quality of liquid feed for pigs and how strategies to optimise feed microbial quality might impact the pig gut microbiome. This project is a collaboration between the Eco-Innovation Research Centre (EIRC) within WIT’s Department of Science, The Pig Development Department in Teagasc Moorepark, and the Animal Bioscience Research Centre in Teagasc Grange.
Research activities at the EIRC focus on the innovative development of ‘high value-added technologies/products/processes from natural resources’ and ‘low environmental impact processing/growth methods’.
Impact of feed type
This project will firstly determine the microbiome and metabolite content of liquid compared to dry pig feed as well as the impact of feed type on the pig gut microbiome. It will then investigate the impact of strategies used to optimise the microbial quality of liquid feed for pigs (deliberate fermentation and sanitisation of feeding systems) on the bacterial and fungal communities in the feed, and in the gastrointestinal tract of pigs.
The project will be supervised by Prof Gillian Gardiner (WIT), and co-supervised by Dr Peadar Lawlor (Teagasc Moorepark) and Paul Cormican (Teagasc Grange). Prior to returning to SETU to pursue research, James studied Molecular Biology with Biopharmaceutical Science at SETU, and completed a microbiology internship in Prof Gardiner's laboratory before working in the food industry as a microbiology analyst and shift supervisor.
Valuable information for farmers
James explains why he applied for the Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship: “Applying for this scholarship was a goal of mine because research supported by the Irish Research Council is nationally and internationally renowned. Therefore, receiving the support of the Irish Research Council will maximise the reach and impact of my research".
Considering that up to 70% of Irish pigs are liquid-fed, this research will not only advance the current state of knowledge on the microbiome of liquid feed and liquid-fed pigs, it will also provide valuable practical information to farmers on strategies to improve the quality of their feed, and ultimately improve the growth and feed efficiency of their herd.