U of I Research in Commercial Setting

URBANA — Agricultural research at the University of Illinois is normally conducted in College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences facilities on or near campus, creating a need to sometimes make adaptations before applying it in commercial
calendar icon 24 March 2003
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However, a new research project is leaping that hurdle by conducting the testing in a commercial hog production unit.

“In the past, we faced the problem of taking something done in a research facility and then transferring it to a commercial application,“ explained Bob Furtney, a hog producer in northern Champaign County. “Now we have a research project underway in a commercial facility, which means the results should be applicable without adaptations.“

The project seeks to establish optimum facility designs and animal management strategies for wean-to-finish pig production systems. It involves a consortium composed of U of I researchers, and major producers and commercial groups within Illinois. Mike Ellis, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, is heading the project. Ellis, along with graduate research assistants Jake DeDecker, Beau Peterson, and Matt Kocher are responsible for carrying out the research.

A system that automatically distributes feed in a swine confinement facility has been installed in one of Furtney’s facilities. He owns the facilities and manages the pigs, which are owned by Art Lehman of Strawn.

By using the system, U of I researchers will be able to calculate the amount of feed necessary to achieve optimal growth rates in the 1,200 animal facility. The amount of feed can be varied literally pen-to-pen, enabling the researchers to have exact data on the performance of pigs fed different diets. The first trials should start by mid-April.

The precise measuring system will allow the researchers to calculate costs down to the level of cents. While that might seem like a lot of work for a small return, Furtney puts it in perspective.

“Hog production today has very tight margins. When you’re talking about producing 100,000 to 200,000 pigs per year, a few cents here and there adds up to a lot of money,“ he said.

Ellis said the research approach represents an important new direction for the U of I.

“In this project, we have university personnel working directly with pork producers to find answers to questions that can spell the difference between profit and loss,“ he said. “Hopefully, this approach will help improve the economic competitiveness of the Illinois swine industry.“

Source: ACES News - 24th March 2003

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