5 September 1997

RESEARCH UNIT TAKES UP SELF-FUNDING CHALLENGE

By Harry Hope

RESEARCH cut-backs have left the pig industry to support its own urgently needed, near market research work.

This challenge has been accepted by the Cotswold Pig Development Company, Rothwell, Lincs, and London Universitys Wye College, Kent, with the launch of a novel research and development Centre.

A landlord-tenant agreement has been arranged with Cotswold renting the college unit in its entirety.

While Cotswold supplies feed, 220 sows from various lines and a management team, Wye funds all capital improvements.

Research policy is headed by John Webb, Cotswolds director of science and genetics and researcher Ian Lean at Wye.

Grandparent stock now housed on the unit, provide a wide genetic spread for research work. Six genotypes include Cotswold White Durocs, halothane negative meat sire lines and pure Meishans.

"Even though lean tissue growth rates will increase by up to 30% with average liveweight gains of 1.3kg/day from 30kg to 90kg, applied research work must recognise that producers are still not exploiting the pigs full genetic potential," says Dr Webb

"Help is needed in the key and related areas of nutrition, meat quality, animal behaviour, disease resistance and emerging marker gene technology," says Dr Webb.

"The EU has supported genome mapping but it is now up to commercial breeders to apply this basic knowledge through the identification of marker genes for important traits. Even without such knowledge, genetic improvement will continue to speed up with conventional selection methods, based on best linear unbiased prediction analysis," says Dr Webb.

He also considers that there is a need for basic research into factors controlling lean tissue growth rate and feed intake. This is particularly so as most modern pigs seem incapable of taking sufficient energy on board to exploit their lean growth potential before they reach the 80kg liveweight stage.

Dr Webb recognises that it is more an energy than a protein limitation and so the different genotypes of slaughter generation pigs will be fed ad lib on two levels of energy coupled with a standard protein level.

Performance and diet

"Though we once thought we knew the pigs genetic potential for lean growth, we now realise that performance is still a function of the diets offered and the ways in which they are offered," he says.

"The potential for research is infinite, and includes the effects of piglet creep diets on growing/finishing performance and the benefits of higher weaning weights, which are known to influences performance up to slaughter," says Dr Webb.

Trial work on these fronts will be undertaken in close liaison with Wyes teaching and research staff.

"The research portfolio is inexhaustible and the link with Cotswold gives us unrivalled access to stock of wide genetic variability," says Dr Lean. &#42

Cotswold and Wye Colleges research centre is one of only two UK sites with pure Meishan stock.

JOINT RESEARCH AIMS

&#8226 Applying gene mapping.

&#8226 Exploiting potential at commercial level.

&#8226 Factors controlling lean growth.