A partnership with Prestage Farms Inc. is allowing Mississippi State University to improve its swine research facility as university scientists prepare to resume swine-related studies.
John Blanton, head of the Mississippi State department of animal and dairy Sciences, said there is a need in the Southeast for science-based information on swine production.
Shengfa Liao was recently hired in the animal and dairy sciences department as a nonruminant nutritionist with both teaching duties and research responsibilities in the Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Experiment Station. His work focuses on maximizing the efficiency of nutrient utilization by swine.
"As a department, we will be investigating swine management systems that will improve production efficiency in the Southeast," Blanton said. "With the addition of Dr. Liao to the department, our swine research program will be rejuvenated, and our students will receive the well-rounded education that is necessary for successful employment after graduation.
"Dr. Liao's area of research investigates the impact of nutritional regulators on growth. In order for Dr. Liao's program to succeed, the department needs to create the facilities to support a non-ruminant research program."
Mark Crenshaw, swine specialist with the Mississippi State Extension Service, said the facility that will house swine research is located at the H.H. Leveck Animal Research Center. While it has housed pigs before, the building has been used as a multipurpose facility in recent years.
"Several things needed to be done to make it workable for a research project," Crenshaw said.
In partnership with Prestage Farms, Mississippi State has installed feeders, a new watering system, a feed auger system to move feed to the pigs as needed and ventilation curtains that open and close automatically to control the temperature in the facility.
Crenshaw said the facility will not only house swine research but also provide students firsthand experience to prepare them for working in the swine industry.
"Pigs are used as models for a variety of research projects, and it will be good to have this basic livestock animal species once again in our research facility," Crenshaw said.
Terry Emerson, general manager of Prestage Farms in West Point, Miss., said the partnership will help the university get back into swine research.
"There is a need for land-grant universities to continue doing research for swine production," Emerson said. "We'd like to see Mississippi State become more engaged in swine production and in the future of our industry."