Pig Survivability

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A request for research proposals has been issued, with a focus on pig survivability. Pork Checkoff director of animal science Chris Hostetler offers thoughts on this important issue for pig farmers and the research grants


Don Wick


Dr. Chris Hostetler, Director, Animal Science




Don Wick: 00:04 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines, Iowa, this is Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff. And today our guest is Chris Hostetler, who is the director of animal science for the Pork Checkoff. Certainly a lot of work being done on research with the National Pork Board, the Pork Checkoff. And one of the key issues of research is pig survivability. Chris, give us an update, what are we doing as far as the industry looking at this particular issue.

Chris Hostetler: 00:37 Getting pigs all the way through to market it and providing those pigs with every opportunity to move through the system and a product that’s really the name of the game. And not only does it have production implications, but it’s also got welfare implications and health implications. And so, anything that we can do to improve the, the well-being, the health and the productivity of the animals will help to ensure that they have an increased level of survivability through to market.

Don Wick: 01:12 No, there’s a new collaboration between the Pork Checkoff and a national group. Tell us about this effort.

Chris Hostetler: 01:20 Yeah, sure. I’ll start off by talking a little bit about FFAR, and that stands for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. My understanding is that was the organization was started in 2015 with a grant from the USDA and the stipulation on that grant money was that a, it’d be leveraged by matching funds. And so when we started talking about how to improve pig survivabilty and the research effort there, the animal science committee thought that that was a good opportunity for us to work with FFAR and leverage our research dollars. For every dollar that pork is invest in research, they get back $83 on the return on that investment. And this is just one way that we do that is by leveraging available research dollars. And so we put a proposal into FFAR and they a agreed that this is an area of interest for them as well, in increasing productivity and in the see and so are the National Pork Board to put up a million dollars and we used that money then and FFAR match that with another million dollars. So we’ve got $2,000,000 in this particular research effort.

Don Wick: 02:54 So is that used for grants, for research projects or how is that money utilized?

Chris Hostetler: 02:55 Yeah, so this is a really a cooperative effort between Animal Science Committee, though the Swine Welfare Committee and the Swine Health Committees. In terms of the vision for this really came out of the Animal Science Committee. The vision is that not only would it be a research driven effort, but there would be an outreach effort and there would be a training component as well. So we know a lot of reasons why pigs die within our systems. And for some reason there’s a disconnect and a failing to enact all of those management practices. And so the opportunity to have some outreach out to the producer community and then also some, an opportunity to do some training in terms of graduate students, post doctoral fellows, veterinary students that would be working as researchers on this particular project, but to get their boots on a slap at the farm level and really get them some additional training and experience within the industry so that they can be leaders and thought leaders and guide the pork industry 20 or 30 years down the road. So that’s the overall vision that the animal science committee had for this particular effort on likely to be a four or five year project and likely to be a large consortium of investigators that work on this project for us.

Don Wick: 04:35 Could you give me an idea of potential research areas? Where would the focus be on, on the issue of pig survival?

Chris Hostetler: 04:43 Sure if you want to talk about it in, in gross a overall terms, I’m really, there’s the breed to wean area, so that would include sow mortality all the way up and then pig mortality all the way to weaning. And in the other area, large area to focus on would be the post weaning to market, so the wean market area as well, and in terms of overall survivability, you know, most of our losses on the pig site occur prior to weening and so if you want to move the metric of overall survivability from birth to market, that’s the best area to work in. However, the most costly is probably that late term finishing stage, when those pigs died, that’s more economically costly. So moving the needle a little bit in the late finishing phase on mortality is probably economically more beneficial than moving the needle quite a bit in the pre-weaning mortality.

Chris Hostetler: 05:48 And so there’s really those two big areas or schools of though. This particular effort strives to a system wide approach who will be inclusive of fatality that occurs across all phases of production. So then that would include a swine health that would include welfare implications, that would be facilities design and ventilation systems and heating and cooling systems. It would be a genetic component to it. Of course nutrition would play in there as well. Um, management was going to be a huge component of this particular effort in understanding the things we can do as managers and in animal handlers to improve the likelihood of survivability is going to be key.

Don Wick: 06:41 You have some deadlines facing you for the application process for these research projects?

Chris Hostetler: 06:48 Yep. So the deadline for it will be May 15th, so it’s coming up in about another six weeks or so. If people would like the application, they can contact me through pork.org, our website and look my contact information up there, give me a call or send me an email and I’ll make sure you get the request for applications as well as the form to fill out and submit the application.

Don Wick: 07:25 Chris Hostetler from the National Pork Board. Thanks to you for listening to this addition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit pork.org.