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New professor in nutrition and lactation physiology at AU

As of March, 1st, 2021, Department of Animal Science has appointed Peter K. Theil professor in nutrition and lactation physiology. With this appointment, the department strengthens its research within nutrition, lactation physiology and productivity in pigs, thus stands up among the world’s top universities when it comes to research in sustainable livestock production.

[Translate to English:] Peter K. Theil er per 1. marts 2021 udnævnt til professor i ernæring og laktationsfysiologi ved Institut for Husdyrvidenskab, Aarhus Universitet.
[Translate to English:] Peter K. Theil er per 1. marts 2021 udnævnt til professor i ernæring og laktationsfysiologi ved Institut for Husdyrvidenskab, Aarhus Universitet.

With the permanent increasing litter sizes within intensive pig production, the need for gaining more knowledge about how we best fulfil the sows’ nutritional needs – including young growing gilts and gestating and lactating sows, also increases. It is important that we can ensure animal health, welfare and productivity, including piglet survival, all at the same time, contemporary with minimizing the climatic and environmental impacts.

“The research field in animal nutrition is one of the department’s absolute core areas. We focus on developing concepts in which high efficiency and production go hand in hand with animal health and welfare as well as a sustainable production. In order to obtain this, we need a more profound understanding of how sows metabolise and utilise the dietary nutrients. With Peter K. Theil’s professorship, we strengthen this field of research markedly at a cellular, tissue and organ level, but also with respect to the productivity in the whole animal. This will be of benefit to the animals, the producers, the environment and our climate”, says Head of Department Klaus Lønne Ingvartsen.

Peter K. Theil has been employed with the department for 25 years and as a senior researcher since 2005. His primary research interest has been within nutrition in pigs, focusing especially on energy and protein metabolism and requirements and quantifying colostrum and milk production. He has led a number of research projects about nutrition and physiological needs in sows with special attention being paid to the transition period around farrowing and to the lactation period. In this connection, he has studied how sows digest and absorb nutrients and which traits are crucial for ensuring piglet survival and their growth. In his research, he has contributed with pioneer work by means of unique animal models including multi-catheterised sows to understand how the sows absorb and utilise the feed components in different organs within the body.

“It makes me both happy and proud that my field of research has been prioritised with a professorship, and I look very much forward to providing my contribution for increasing our knowledge about the pigs’ nutritional physiology. In my opinion, research in nutrition is only useful if we focus on the quantitative aspects. Here, it is important not only to focus on the whole animal but also understand the physiology inside the animal, as sows compensate for insufficient nutrition by mobilising energy and nutrients from the body to support milk production”, says Peter K. Theil.

Peter K. Theil is acknowledged for his research and unique knowledge within nutrition in pigs both in Denmark and internationally. Since 2012, he has, among others, been member of the National Board which sets the Danish standards for nutrients for pigs and sows, and researchers around the world are inspired by the research carried out at Aarhus University. In 2018, he was appointed adjunct professor at Sichuan Agricultural University in China. The appointment was a culmination of several years of cooperation between Aarhus University and Sichuan Agricultural University.

“My long-term aim is to find environmentally friendly and sustainable feeding strategies for pigs and sows that are adapted to the need of each animal. This will increase the efficiency and utilisation of energy and nutrients and at the same time minimise the environmental and climatic impact from livestock production. Furthermore, consumer demands increase regarding improvement of animal welfare and limitation of the carbon footprint in the agricultural production. This requires that we always make new research initiatives, which is a challenge and task that I look forward to undertake”, ends Peter K. Theil.

About Professor Peter Kappel Theil

Born on 8 August 1969 on a farm in Terndrup in northern Jutland but was raised in Gug near Aalborg.

Worked in Foulum from 1990 to 1992, first as a laboratory assistant trainee, later as a laboratory assistant.

Has an MSc in biology from 1998 from Aarhus University.

Has a PhD from 2002 from KVL. During his PhD, he studied energy and protein metabolism in gestating and lactating sows.

Employed as researcher from 2002 to 2005 at Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Foulum, at Department of Animal Nutrition and Physiology.

Employed as senior researcher from 2005 to 2021 the same place, which in 2007 became part of Aarhus University.

Appointed professor at Aarhus University as of 1 March 2021.


Lives on a small farm near Løvelbro with his wife and three children.