Defra and SEERAD announce 3550k research project on pre-weaning piglet mortality

by 5m Editor
19 May 2004, at 12:00am

UK - Defra and the Scottish Executive today announced a 3348,000 contribution to a four year joint research project with industry in a bid to reduce pre-weaning piglet mortality rates across the UK.

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National herd records from the Meat and Livestock Commission show that 12 per cent of piglets born alive in UK indoor farrowing systems currently die before weaning.

This is caused by a combination of poor vitality at birth, failure to suckle adequately and crushing by the sow. The level of mortality is an important piglet welfare problem and also constitutes a significant economic loss for producers.

Evidence from pig populations in other EU countries suggests that piglet survival is hereditary and that selection for particular survival traits may be useful in reducing piglet mortality.

The 3550,000 study aims to investigate the potential for selective breeding to improve piglet survival. It will

  • Analyse existing database on information from Pig Improvement Company and JSR bloodlines used in the UK to determine likely inherited traits that could form the basis for selection for survival.

  • Identify sow and sire lines with genetic variation in piglet mortality.

  • Investigate the relationship of piglet mortality with other important production traits.

  • Assess the long-term success of dams, varying in genetic merit, for survival.

  • Determine whether families or lines that show high genetic merit for piglet survival in crates also display improve survival in commercial outdoor (non-crate) pig systems.

  • Develop and test a breeding index for piglet survival traits.

The research will be carried out by scientists at the University of Newcastle, Scottish Agricultural College and the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with PIC, JSR Genetics, Grampian Country Food Group and the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA).

Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw said:

"The project provides a good example of industry working with academic partners to produce tools to benefit their customers in primary production. It fits closely with the objectives and principles of the GB Animal Health and Welfare Strategy and Implementation Plans being developed by Defra, SEERAD and the Welsh Assembly.

"The Strategy recognises the importance of good quality science helping to consistently raise animal health and welfare status over time. It also highlights the importance of good working relationships between Government, industry and the scientific community to ensure the development of the most relevant research programmes and maximise knowledge transfer."

Scottish Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie said:

"High quality research and science can help us achieve the aims of the GB Animal Health and Welfare Strategy and put Great Britain at the forefront of livestock disease control and eradication.

"Good science must underpin the development and implementation of strategy if we are to raise our animal health and welfare performance. It is important that the Industry works with Government, Scientists, Researchers and other stakeholders to improve animal health, this project is a good example of that happening."

Source: Defra - 19th May 2004

5m Editor