Yuan-Tai Hung, an up and coming leader in the swine industry, builds upon his poultry background to deepen his understanding of nutrition in an effort to develop optimal feeding strategies for pigs.
Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan
Education: BS at Tunghai University; MS at National Chung Hsing University; currently pursuing Ph.D. in swine nutrition and gastrointestinal physiology at the University of Minnesota under the guidance of Drs. Gerald Shurson, Pedro Urriola and Milena Saqui-Salces.
Q. What is your background in the swine industry?
A. During an undergraduate animal nutrition course, my professor said, “You are what you eat.” This motivated me to focus on animal nutrition and how it influences animal growth performance. Through my graduate training, I gained the knowledge needed in poultry nutrition to work professionally in a sales and technical service role with an animal nutrition company. During this time, I discovered some similarities in poultry and swine products which led me to further study in swine to make my nutritional background more comprehensive.
Q. Tell us about your internship experiences.
A. I interned with Yao Xiang Hao Agri Co., Ltd and gained experience in commercial poultry farming and laying hen production. I cared for white leghorns in caged housing systems and learned parameters for determining egg quality. I also spent three months as a swine technician at Liang Yi Swine Farm (20,000 head). I learned vaccination techniques for nursery pigs, gained skills in monitoring animal health and welfare in swine and learned how to identify, prevent and control Enzootic Pneumonia (SEP) under the direction of an executive veterinarian. At Li Xin sow farm (800 sows), I learned pig care in lactation and weaning phases, how to determine heat in gilts and sows and basic techniques for semen collection and artificial insemination.
Q. Did you take part in undergraduate research?
A. I was an undergraduate research assistant in the Physiology Lab at Tunghai University with Professor Shyi-Kuen Yang. My study was on the effects of photoperiod on growth performance and metabolism in Roman geese. I observed the process of writing a research protocol, preparing documents for IACUC approval and arranging logistics for a research trial. I also learned animal handling techniques, sample collection protocol (serum and tissues), data processes and statistical analysis. I also worked on a project at National Taiwan University’s Poultry Nutrition Lab developing and conducting a study on the effects of dietary metabolic energy on daily metabolic energy requirement for Peking ducklings.
Q. What other learning opportunities have you been involved in?
A. Since 2016, I have attended academic meetings including the American Society of Animal Science Midwest Meeting, the Allen D. Leman Swine Conference and the Minnesota Nutrition Conference where I have given oral and poster presentations. I’ve also attended the Zinpro Student Symposium and the World Pork Expo. Recently, I passed an examination by the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and am recognized as a Professional Animal Scientist with a specialization in swine.
Q. Tell us about your current research.
A. My current research involves a holistic approach that integrates swine nutrition, gastrointestinal physiology, metabolomics and microbiomics to understand the influence of fiber on animal performance. My study will explain how dietary fiber and its viscosity impact growth performance of pigs through identification of physiological and metabolic responses in the gastrointestinal tract. Fiber is evaluated in animal performance due to the role of fiber type in gut health as it relates to bacteria and fermentation characteristics, chemico-physical properties and the unknown requirement or ideal type of fiber for pigs. I am working to elucidate the association between the viscosity of fiber, nutrient digestibility, metabolic response and intestinal physiology in pigs fed different levels of soluble fiber. This work involves evaluation of tissue morphology, intestinal epithelial cells, enzymatic activity, expression of mucin and hormones in the gastrointestinal tract. These results will help develop optimal feeding strategies for swine consuming diets with fibrous feed ingredients.