19 May 2000

How LINK is helping out pig research

NEW production orientated research often seems difficult to find these days, with the focus increasingly on environment and welfare.

But sow infertility and AI are just some of a range of projects attracting funding from the pig industry and MAFF through its LINK scheme.

"There is pressure from government to reduce the amount of state funding purely for profitable production. When possible, these projects are moved into LINK, where for every £1 industry commits to research, MAFF matches it," MAFF head of livestock science, David Garwes, told Pig and Poultry Fair visitors.

"The scheme has been running for four years and we now have 30 LINK programmes underway with £14.5m of funding committed."

Pig projects covered by the programme included a sow fertility study at SAC and Nottingham University, said Dr Garwes.

"This project looks at how nutrition influences conception rates and embryo survival. Similar work is being done for dairy cows, which allows cross fertilisation of ideas between researchers working on the different species."

Catching up with the cattle industry on AI is the aim of a joint project between the Royal Vet College and London Zoo. "We must increase AI use in the pig industry to speed genetic improvement.

"Pig sperm can only survive for 24 hours at room temperature, but encapsulating sperm in a gel which mimics cells found in the pigs oviduct could enable it to survive for a week," he said.