Australasian Pork Research Institute Ltd. (APRIL), the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, SunPork Solutions and Rivalea Australia have secured an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grant to support a $900,000 (Australian) research project to improve pig welfare by modulating stress resilience.
ARC funding for the three-year project, "Early Stress Experiences & Stress Resilience in Pigs," was $450,000, with an additional $449,393 cash from other partners, $100,000 of that from APRIL, the announcement from the organization said.
APRIL chief executive officer and chief scientist John Pluske said the ARC grant was very significant, as improving pig welfare is a hot-button issue in the Australasian pork industry.
“It marks the first instance of APRIL, on behalf of its members, successfully leveraging external funding for a major research project of industry-wide relevance,” Pluske said.
“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 added. “This project, backed by international collaboration, will have a global impact on new knowledge and improved husbandry.”
Paul Hemsworth with the Animal Welfare Science Centre at the University of Melbourne and Alan Tilbrook with the University of Queensland's Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation said the project 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.
“Modern pig farming is a major source of food, providing substantial nutritional, social and economic benefits for Australia and the world,” Hemsworth said. “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.”
Project investigators include Hemsworth, Tilbrook, Dr. Jeremy Marchant Forde with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, University of Melbourne associate professor Roger Rassool and professor Jean-Loup Rault with the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna in Austria.
The investigators said they agree that prior stressful experiences early in life may strengthen an animal’s resistance to subsequent stressors.
Hemsworth noted that reducing farm animal stress would have substantial economic and social benefits, because stress reduces animal welfare, productivity and health.
“Importantly, public animal welfare concerns can dramatically affect welfare-based purchasing decisions and curtail farm profitability and the continued use of specific animal practices,” he said.
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