AUSTRALIA is leading an international research pro-ject to improve pig welfare by modulating stress re-silience.
Australasian Pork Research Inst-itute Ltd (APRIL) chief executive and chief scientist John Pluske says improving pig welfare is a hot button issue in the pork industry.
“This project, backed by in-ternational collaboration, will have a global impact on new knowledge and improved husbandry,” Pluske says.
Project researchers come from the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and Austria’s University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.
They will examine stress resilience in pigs and generate knowledge on early life management to endow stress resilience in pigs, with expected benefits for their welfare, health, productivity and subsequent farm profitability.
The Australian Research Council is providing A$900,000 (£503,300) for the three-year project, with a similar amount coming from other partners, including processors Sun-
Pork Solutions and Rivalea Austr-alia.
The researchers say stressful experiences early in life may strengthen an animal’s resistance to subsequent stressors.
“Animal welfare is of increasing concern to the public, consumers and pork producers and stress vulnerability is an animal health and production problem in the life of the commercial pig,” says Paul Hemsworth of the University of Melbourne’s Animal Welfare Science Centre.
He says reducing farm animal stress would have substantial economic and social benefits, because stress reduced animal welfare, productivity and health.
“Modern pig farming is a major source of food, providing substantial nutritional, social and economic benefits for Australia and the world,” Hemsworth says.
“Importantly, public animal welfare concerns can dramatically affect welfare-based purchasing decisions and curtail farm profitability and the continued use of specific animal practices.”
Pluske says it’s the first instance of APRIL, on behalf of its members, successfully leveraging external funding for a major research project of industry-wide relevance.
“APRIL’s vision is for collaborative pork industry research, focused on industry led priorities, leading to timely generation and adoption of outcomes able to ensure sustainability and profitability of Australasian pork producers,” he says.