Recognition for SAC Pig Research

SCOTLAND, UK - Scottish Agricultural Colleges (SAC) reports the successes of the recent SAC Pig KT Conference.
calendar icon 20 October 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

"SAC pig researchers are doing their bit in supporting UK efforts to develop food production that reflects increased consumer interest in sustainability and high welfare." That was the message Professor Alastair Lawrence, Head of SAC's Sustainable Livestock Research Group, gave to a pig industry conference gathered at Moredun. It was organised by SAC as part of the Scottish Government's 'Success Through Knowledge' programme. Professor Lawrence's audience included pig producers, processors, industry suppliers and researchers. Professor Lawrence told them the event highlighted the extent of SAC's research into pig health, nutrition and welfare.

In an opening presentation, Gordon McKen of the Scottish Pig Producers group welcomed the conference, emphasising that Scottish pig farmers are willing innovators. He cited the health monitoring his members carry out, using SAC vets to inspect carcasses for sub clinical disease, or the epidemiological advice provided through SAC in Inverness. SPP recently won a 2010 Scotland Food and Drink Award in the 'Success through Working in Partnership' Category, along with processors Vion UK Ltd., Asda, SSPCA and QMS. Mr McKen explained that after some hard years producers were now reinvesting and were well placed to take advantage of a market where Scotland's production costs were now lower than EU competitors, many of whom were leaving the sector.

One area of concern for Mr McKen's members is the costs and effects of regulation. In his paper Dr Malcolm Mitchell, SAC's leading expert on Live Animal Transport, said that while there would be no immediate changes to EU live animal transport regulations, they could not be ruled out by 2012. Dr Mitchell serves on an EU Group reporting to the Commission at Christmas and was convinced any proposed changes would be based on science. He explained how the work he and research partners carried out in Spain during the summer had highlighted just how well pigs can cope with conditions under the current regulations.

Other presentations dealt with stress and aggression in pigs. Dr Emma Baxter explained that stress in pregnant sows can not only affect piglet survival and productivity, but also make their piglets more susceptible to stress as adults. There were lessons for producers to learn about the way they mixed different groups and managed herds in ways that created stress for pigs. Aggression can be the cause or effect of stress in pigs. According to SAC Behavioural Scientist, Dr Simon Turner, it is also linked to genetics. He suggested selection against aggressiveness should be achievable and outlined several practical ways of identifying the more aggressive animals.

In another presentation, Dr Baxter reviewed the arguments over restraining sows during farrowing. The case for keeping sows in pens during the period when they are giving birth and suckling young is that it makes management easier, protects piglets from crushing and helps stockperson safety. However, it can be stressful for sows as they cannot nest-build prior to birth or exhibit other natural behaviours. Dr Baxter is working with Newcastle University on the PigSafe farrowing system which addresses these issues.

The Conference ended with a discussion on future research needs of the pig industry. A request was made to have a similar event in the north of Scotland in the near future.

Further Reading

- You can listen to podcasts of the presentations from the SAC's Pig KT Conference by clicking here.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.
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