This PhD project focusses on the relationship between chemical and physical characteristics of starch, and how these effect the performance and energy maintenance in pigs. This project is a collaboration between the Animal Nutrition group and laboratory of Food Chemistry of Wageningen University and the Dutch feed company Agrifirm.
Starch in pig feed is mainly used as energy source, and with pig feed containing up to 50% starch based on dry matter, starch is considered one of the most important energy suppliers for pigs. Starch digestion in pigs is highly influenced by the chemical and physical characteristics of starch. Due to the large proportion of starch in feed, minor changes in these characteristics can already have a significant impact on the energy utilization.
The most important aspects of starch degradation kinetics are the passage rate of starch through the gastro-intestinal tract of the pig, and the extent and rate of degradation of starch. These characteristics determine additionally where starch is degraded; in the small- or large intestine of the pig, and thus affects the appearance kinetics of end-products of starch degradation in the portal circulation.
Chemical and physical characteristics of starch are in part determined by the botanic origin of the feedstuff, but some can be influenced by processing technology as well. However, the exact relationships between different processing conditions and starch degradation are unclear. Gaining more knowledge about the modification of starch characteristics provides an important opportunity for feed producers in optimisation of the nutritive value of feedstuffs.
Besides the interest in the relationship between starch characteristics and energy utilization from starch, this project also focusses on the influence of starch on utilization of other feed ingredients such as protein. Overall, this research will contribute to a better understanding of starch digestion in pigs, which is expected to contribute to a more efficient nutrient and energy utilization and a lower feed conversion in pigs, leading to a more sustainable production of pig meat.
Bianca Martens graduated from Wageningen University with BSc and MSc degrees in Food Technology. She started her PhD project in November 2014. In this project, she is working with the Laboratory of Food Chemistry (WU), the Animal Nutrition Group (WU) and the Dutch feed company Agrifirm.