June 14, 2021 8:26 AM

Beginning Monday, June 14, 2021, the MSU Veterinary Medical Center will allow clients into the building with patients. Find details here.

Any patient presented to the MSU Small Animal Emergency Service will undergo an initial medical evaluation to determine if urgent care is needed, and whether hospitalization is warranted. The MSU Small Animal Emergency Service will only hospitalize patients that our clinicians consider to be unstable or to have life-threatening conditions.

For the past 10 years, Dr. Adam Moeser has been investigating how early-life events—particularly the stressful ones, such as early weaning and production stress—can influence future health risks in swine.

“In the past, scientists have known that early-life adversity could cause some health issues, but they were understood as short-term problems that resolved,” says Moeser. “Today, we know that the opposite is true in that adverse early-life events can cause harmful effects that last into adulthood, thus having significant implications for animal health and productivity.”

Dr Moeser

These early-life events come in the form of standard farm management practices. Moeser, the Matilda Wilson Endowed Chair for the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, is looking specifically at early weaning and social stress. In nature, pigs wean between three and four months. Most pork producers wean their piglets at around 18 days.

“Maternal separation, as well as separation from their siblings, so early is traumatic enough, but these piglets also are introduced to a new diet and environment,” says Moeser. “The new social status, surroundings, and nutrition all add up to an increased level of stress.”

Moeser and his team have found that early weaning of piglets can cause lasting perturbations in intestinal immune barrier functions, which in turn lead to a variety of health problems later in life, such as increased risk of gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases and reduced growth performance and feed efficiency. These problems translate to economic losses for producers: increased health care costs and reduced product yield.

“Diet and nutrition are hands down the largest expenses for pork producers,” says Moeser. “If the feed that producers use isn’t converted to pork efficiently, it becomes a significant economic loss.”

Now, Moeser is working to make new recommendations for producers that will focus on animal welfare while trying to maintain efficiency for producers. He and his team are working to define management options that can help lower early-life adversity for piglets with the goal of enhancing intestinal immune development and long-term disease resistance while keeping sows as productive as possible—mainly, by facilitating a stronger understanding of weaning complexity across the pork production industry.

“Humans experience similar consequences after early-life adversity, so working to affect change in the lives of pigs can only benefit us.”
— Dr. Adam Moeser

“If we can identify and define specific stressors, we can start to measure which have the most impact on piglets and work to lessen their impact,” says Moeser. “We’re working to see if we can reduce stress levels by modifying or eliminating just one stressor.”

Additionally, as the food production industry becomes more informed about the repercussions of antibiotic resistance, producers are moving away from using antibiotics as growth promoters. Changing the role of this tool will likely create a spike in diseases, making Moeser’s work that identifies new management strategies to promote immune development timely and critical.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health and US Department of Agriculture, Moeser’s work also is translatable to humans, who share many similarities in their gastrointestinal systems to those of pigs; in children, early-life adversity is an important risk factor for poor health throughout their lifespan.

“When we look at health across the whole lifespan of a pig, there are broader implications for public health,” says Moeser. “These early-life adversities program health trajectory in both species.”

After evaluating farm management practices, Moeser’s next step is to focus on preventatives and therapeutics. Moeser’s team is using advanced research techniques in the laboratory to study the impact of early-life adversity on the gut at a basic level.

“This approach will facilitate the discovery of new biological targets for therapeutic or nutritional interventions to improve porcine health,” says Moeser.

By contributing to a more thorough understanding of a pig’s biology, Moeser and his team can begin investigating ways to heal and protect pigs during critical periods of stress.

“At this point, because of the similarities between pigs and humans, we can start looking at more applications in human medicine for diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and food allergies,” says Moeser. “Humans experience similar consequences after early-life adversity, so working to affect change in the lives of pigs can only benefit us.”

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Greener Pastures

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Investing in the Future

MSU Donors’ Impact on the Dairy Industry.

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Food Systems Fellowship Program

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Experts Revamp Food Protection and Defense Course Read More
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Researching New Therapies and Preventatives

to Mediate GI-Triggered Autoimmune Disease.

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Reducing Early-Life Adversity for Pig, Human Health Read More
Slowing Down Antibiotics and Speeding Up Herd Recovery Read More
Wake Up: Treating Tuberculosis by Stopping Dormancy

Treating Tuberculosis by Stopping Dormancy.

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Healing the Herd

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Veterinarians Are Integral to the Process.

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Defining and Fighting Food Fraud Read More
College Welcomes New PDI Chair, One Health Ambassador Read More
New curriculum offers opportunity for food animal students Read More
Class of 2021 Profile Read More
Alumni News Read More
In Memoriam Read More
Why Scholarships? Why Now?

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Homecoming 2017 Read More
Celebration of Generosity 2017 Read More