Development unit closes after 23 years

UK - The MLC's Pig Development Unit at Stotfold in Bedfordshire has closed. Opened by Lord Belstead, Minister of State (Lords), Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods in November 1984, the centre has been at the forefront of practical research and investigation into production techniques, meat quality and genetic performance.
calendar icon 13 July 2007
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Over the years the unit has undergone many changes, but always firmly aimed at delivering practical opportunities and trial work that could be quickly disseminated and implemented on commercial pig farms. The British pig industry owes a huge debt of gratitude to the staff, scientists - and the pigs - that have provided such a vital link in its development for more than 20 years.

At its peak MLC Stotfold employed 10 staff and had a 300-sow farrow to finish operation. However, major changes in the industry, and a fundamental shift in the strategy of the British Pig Executive (BPEX), meant it was no longer needed. The unit has been gradually wound down during the past six months and the remaining two members fo staff, unit manager Lisa Taylor and stockman Malcolm Day, have now been made redundant. BPEX is currently exploring the possibility of site redevelopment and has applied for planning permission.

The final piece of research work was completed in May 2007, part of the DEFRA'S £3.5m Link weaner research programme. Stotfold evaluated weaner diets that maximised the use of home-grown cereals and oilseeds. To the end, the pigs performed excellently with weaning to slaughter growth rates of 740g/day and grower to slaughter performance in excess of 1050g/day.

BPEX Director of Pig Industry Development Mark Wilson said that Stotfold had been a huge asset to the industry. "We are sad to see it go, but BPEX carried out a major review of its research and development, but unfortunately Stotfold didn't fit into the new perspective," he added.

The ground-breaking research completed at Stotfold has included fundamental work on:

  • The introduction of soya bean meal to pig diets
  • The use of Copper sulphate as a growth promoter
  • The evaluation of commercial genotypes for sow productivity, growth
  • Performance and carcase and meat quality (Stotfold First Trial)
  • Development of ultrasound technology for carcase composition
  • The blueprint for pig meat eating quality
  • Stotfold's sow lactation feeding strategy - now a production standard on many farms
  • Phase-feeding - protein requirements of commercial genotypes
  • The established speed of growth and pork tenderness, which were positively correlated
  • Liquid feeding which found it offered savings of 14p/kg dead weight
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