Research into pig nutrition, as well as production systems and reproduction, is set for a “step change” following a £7m investment at Leeds University.
The investment includes a significant upgrade of the university’s indoor-reared pig research centre, and the creation of a new outdoor facility.
Majority funded by the university, but with support from the government-funded Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock (CIEL), the pig herd has been expanded from 200 to 600 sows.
One-third of these are outdoor reared.
“Animal feed is the largest variable cost which the industry bears,” said Helen Miller, director of the university farm.
“One of the areas we will study is how to improve outdoor sow nutrition to maximise the well-being and productivity of individual animals.
“This should also result in improved profitability, providing significant support for individual farmers and for larger businesses across the rural economy.”
Among the most prominent outcomes will be a greater ability for researchers to make feed recommendations for pigs to keep pace with ongoing genetic improvements.
New equipment and facilities include a CCTV network to monitor the pig herd 24/7, equipment to automatically feed and show what each pig consumes and devices to let pigs choose what they want to eat.
Each pig will be identified through its DNA, while new accommodation includes flexible penning and birthing arrangements.