Winners of the 2008 JSR Press Release Competition

by 5m Editor
27 October 2008, at 4:28pm

UK - JSR Genetics' first ever Student Press Release Competition tempted students with a unique prize: the opportunity to present their work at the JSR Press Dinner on the eve of the 19th Technical Conference, entitled '50 Years of Excellence in Breeding'.

An initiative aimed at helping talented, skilled individuals to enter the pig industry, the competition - in which entrants had to supply a 'mock' press release detailing their aims and ambitions - produced two clear winners: Dagmar Kapell and Claudia Richards.

Dagmar Kapell

Dagmar, 27, who studied animal science at the Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands, and is now in her second year of PhD studies at the Scottish Agricultural College, presented her paper on the genetic improvement of piglet survival.

"My ambition in the pig industry is to improve piglet survival in current production systems," she says. "Piglet survival has a large influence on both economics and welfare. Also consumers have become increasingly aware of animal welfare, so I feel that traits related to animal welfare will play an important role in future breeding programmes. My goal is to contribute to the development of pig breeding programmes that focus on both production and piglet survival traits."

Claudia Richards, a qualified vet who completed her first degree at the University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru - and is now undertaking an MSc in Meat Science and Technology at Bristol University - became joint winner by submitting research on a topic equally vital to the future of the pig industry: boar taint compounds.

"I believe strongly in the role of genetics in meat quality"
Claudia Richards

"My project involves the measurement of these compounds in pork fat and the use of a sensory panel to assess any abnormal odour that the public would find unacceptable," she explains. "I am working towards establishing the levels of boar taint compounds that allow separation between tainted and untainted carcases."

Both Claudia and Dagmar were looking forward to the conference to present their work to a broader public, as Dagmar explains, "At the moment, I work within a close academic field. I felt that by entering the competition, and attending the conference, it would provide an opportunity for people to take advantage of my research at a practical level."

Having already spent two years in Scotland, Dagmar is keen to visit England and to meet key industry figures present at the event. "I will enjoy the chance to hear, at first hand, such a wide range of notable speakers. My work at SAC has already bought me into contact with JSR Genetics - I am working with their dataset - so I am hoping to meet them in person at the conference," she said.

"Piglet survival has a large influence on both economics and welfare"
Dagmar Kapell

For Claudia, 35, who moved to England in 2002, entering the student competition had a particular appeal. "As a vet in Peru, I knew many people within the meat industry but here I am starting again. This will give me a great opportunity to not only present my work but to get to know people from all sectors of the industry."

Having undertaken jobs ranging from a training post at the PDSA to press reader - to give herself a broad skill base - Claudia returned to university to expand on an interest in the meat industry that she first developed in Lima where, as a vet, she took part in market and abattoir meat hygiene inspections.

"I enrolled at Bristol and was lucky enough to receive BPEX funding," continues Claudia. "My immediate goal now is to apply the knowledge I have gained back into the pork industry, hopefully in a company such as JSR, as I believe strongly in the role of genetics in meat quality. With my background as a vet and the practical skills that the course has given me, I feel I can make a positive contribution to the industry."

Claudia Richards

Dagmar too is keen that her research be put to practical use within the industry, believing that piglet survival will remain the focus of her career. "My aim is really to continue to work within this field and to ensure that my academic research translates into quantifiable on-farm benefits," she explained.

Tim Rymer, Chairman of JSR Genetics, who took part in the selection process was delighted by the standard of entrants.

He said, "We recognize how important it is that talented young people continue to enter the pig industry - they are vital to its sustainability - but also that it can be difficult. By introducing these knowledgeable, skilled and determined students to the established community we are hoping to overcome some of the barriers that exist, to the benefit of all concerned."

5m Editor