Researchers and producers discuss pig industry innovation

Published 05 November 2010

Increasing the iron content ofpig pork and improving the survival rate of piglets were just two of the topics discussed during an international Pig Genetics Workshop at the University of New England last week.

The Pig Genetics Workshop is a biennial event organised for the Australian pig industry, with the support of Australian Pork Limited, through the UNE-based Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU) – a joint venture between the University and Industry & Investment NSW. Among the participants were representatives of the Australian pig breeding companies supplying breeding stock to more than 95 per cent of the industry.

One of the overseas speakers at the workshop, Dr Rex Walters from the UK, who has been a regular participant in the AGBU workshop over the years, said it was one of the best forums in the world for the exchange of ideas and information on pig genetics. “I always find it very stimulating,” he said.

Dr Walters, a geneticist with the research and development company UPB Genetic World, said that the workshop regularly brought together academics, consultants and producers at AGBU, which he regarded as “a world-leading centre”. He said that two themes underlying much of the discussion at the 2010 workshop were sustainability and animal welfare.

Dr Walters was one of four eminent overseas speakers at the workshop on Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 October; the others included two who travelled from the United States and one who spoke via Webinar from Norway.

One of the American speakers, Professor Max Rothschild from Iowa State University, presented a paper aimed at helping breeders understand the new genetic technologies that are being introduced into an already-sophisticated industry. “Such genetic improvement will improve production characteristics and provide healthier food products worldwide,” he said, emphasising the importance to industry – particularly from a commercial perspective – of the early adoption of such innovations.

The coordinator of the workshop, AGBU’s Dr Susanne Hermesch, said the real significance of the event lay in the vital interaction it allowed between researchers and industry. This year’s workshop, she said, had seen a special emphasis on the genetic improvement of the lifetime performance of sows. In a paper addressing this complex issue, AGBU’s Dr Kim Bunter and Dr Craig Lewis pointed out that “selection to improve production traits has consequences for the ongoing body development of sows, their longevity, and the pre-natal development and pre-weaning performance of their progeny”.

Clicking on the image displayed here reveals a photograph, taken during the Pig Genetics Workshop, of (from left) Dr Rex Walters (UPB Genetic World, UK), Mr Paul O’Leary (PIC Australia), Dr Susanne Hermesch (AGBU), Professor Max Rothschild (Iowa State University, USA), and Dr Scott Newman (Genus/PIC, USA).