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New research: Using less bedding can benefit in-transit market pigs

In a new study funded by the Pork Checkoff, researchers at Texas Tech and Iowa State universities found that the pork industry can generally use less bedding year-round than it currently does, while improving overall animal well-being – a breakthrough finding that could save the industry an estimated $10.1 million per year.

John McGlone, a swine researcher at Texas Tech University and principal researcher for the study, along with Anna Butters-Johnson, an Iowa State University researcher, looked at various rates of bedding in semitrailers at different times of year and in different locations throughout the Midwest. This approach provided data representing cold, mild, and hot weather. Specifically, the research trials showed that groups of pigs headed to market can experience lower mortality rates in warm weather and overall improved well-being year-round when less bedding is used in transport trailers. According to McGlone, the current standard in the industry is to use four bales of bedding per semitrailer.

According to Sherrie Niekamp, Checkoff’s director of swine welfare, the pork industry overall is doing a good job of transporting its roughly 2 million pigs per week in a safe and pig-friendly way. Statistics back up this assessment, with more than 99.3% of pigs sent to market arriving in good condition.

The Transport Quality Assurance task force will take this new research into consideration when updating the program’s transport recommendations. The current TQA Handbook is online at pork.org.

For more information, contact Sherrie Niekamp, Checkoff’s animal welfare director, at SNiekamp@pork.org or 515-223-3533.

Checkoff-funded PRRS research compiled

While porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) is a formidable and costly enemy to fight, extensive research funded by the Pork Checkoff is helping the pork industry gain ground in the battle against this tenacious virus.

“The Pork Checkoff is committed to finding practical solutions to this very complex disease through investments in research,” says National Pork Board President Everett Forkner, who notes that the Checkoff recently mailed producers a copy of the 40-page PRRS Initiative Research 2004-2011 Report. The booklet’s topics include immunology and vaccine development, epidemiology, risk factors and control strategies, diagnostic tests and PRRS surveillance, regional elimination, and genetic resistance to disease.

“Thanks to the breadth of the research that has been gathered in recent years, our understanding of PRRS is increasing by leaps and bounds,” says Lisa Becton, Checkoff’s director of swine health information and research, who notes that the PRRS Initiative Research Program supported by the Pork Checkoff’s Swine Health Committee has funded 123 projects totaling more than $10 million since 2004.

For more information, contact Lisa Becton, Checkoff’s director of swine health information and research, at LBecton@pork.org or 515-223-2791. The research booklet is available in electronic format on pork.org.

2012 Environmental Stewards nominations due

Applications to the National Pork Board for the 2012 Pork Industry Environmental Stewards Awards are due by March 31, 2012. Along with cosponsor National Hog Farmer, Checkoff recognizes up to four pork producers each year who demonstrate the industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Applications can be found at pork.org under the programs heading.

For more information, contact Allan Stokes, Checkoff’s environmental director, at AStokes@pork.org or 515-223-3447.