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Leeds University unveils £7m pig research investment project

22nd Nov 2016 / By Alistair Driver

The University of Leeds has unveiled plans for a £7 million investment in new facilities to allow it to carry out important research on indoor and outdoor pig units.

Leeds Pig farmThe project, jointly funded by the university and the Government, includes a threefold increase in the number of sows from 200 to 600. Of these, 200 will live outdoors (the image shows the University's outdoor pig herd). 

This will put the facility on a par with commercially run pig farms and will create a step change in the type of research the University’s academics can carry out.

Installing new outdoor facilities alongside the indoor facilities already available to researchers at the University’s research farm will create a unique capability, according to Professor Helen Miller, director of the University Farm.

Leeds’ pig research focuses on themes identified by the livestock industry as central to improving quality and productivity: animal nutrition, production systems and reproduction, behaviour and environment.

New equipment and facilities will include:

  • A CCTV network to monitor the pig herd 24/7. 
  • Equipment to automatically feed and monitor what each pig consumes. 
  • Devices which will let pigs choose what they want to eat, and monitor their choices.
  • Technical facilities to identify each pig genetically through its DNA. 
  • Teaching centres and on-site laboratories to complement high-spec campus labs.
  • New animal accommodation including flexible penning and birthing arrangements.


Professor Miller said: “We are making the investment to create new knowledge which will benefit both British pigs and the pig industry.”

For example, the investment will provide researchers with key information to enable them to make feed recommendations for pigs to keep pace with ongoing genetic improvements.

“Animal feed is the largest variable cost which the industry bears,” Professor Miller said.

“One of the areas we will study in this new facility is how to improve outdoor sow nutrition to maximise the wellbeing 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.”

Recruitment

In addition, the University is recruiting a number of key staff to open up new areas of expertise,  including Professor Lisa Collins, who is set to join in January from the University of Lincoln and has previously developed computer models to predict animal behaviour.

The investment is majority funded by the university, with support from the government-funded Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock (CIEL). This is a UK wide programme to link leading livestock research bodies with industry partners, to improve livestock quality and husbandry across the board.

Dr Mark Young, head of innovation at the centre said: “CIEL is investing in world class facilities to empower our world class scientists with the aim of driving innovation to enhance livestock food production across the supply chain.

“The University of Leeds outdoor pig unit is a key facility in our work to deliver user focused innovation to the pork industry.”

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