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Pork Checkoff investment yields PRRS breakthrough


Building on work originally funded by the Pork Checkoff, a consortium of scientists from around the country has discovered a genetic marker in pigs that identifies whether or not a pig has a reduced susceptibility to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) – a disease that costs the US pork industry an estimated $664 million per year.

The researchers found a genetic marker, called a quantitative trait locus, on swine chromosome 4 that is associated with resistance to PRRS virus infection. According to Joan Lunney, a research scientist at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland, this is especially important, as this location also is associated with improved growth of pigs that are infected with the PRRS virus. She says results indicate a positive effect for PRRS resistance and higher weight gain.

“PRRS is one of the industry’s top ongoing issues, so this research discovery is a major step in the right direction,” said Lisa Becton, Checkoff’s director of swine health and information. “Pork producers realize that supporting science-based research is not an overnight proposition. It’s especially gratifying to achieve results like this and to envision how they can be implemented at the farm level.”

Now that scientists have found a chromosomal segment that can signify resistance to PRRS, the next step is to pinpoint the gene and determine whether it shows the same effects for multiple strains of the PRRS virus.

For more information, contact Lisa Becton, Checkoff’s director of swine health information and research, at LBecton@pork.org or 515-223-2791.

Checkoff study and tools to aid water conservation

Total annual water usage for pork production may be surprising. When broken down into three categories, swine finishing accounts for 62.2% of an estimated 41.3 billion gallons of water, and gestation-farrowing and nursery operations use the remaining 33.4% and 4.4%, respectively. Not surprisingly, animal drinking-water consumption makes up about 80% of total usage.

To help address water conservation, a recent Pork Checkoff-funded study was conducted by Iowa State University researchers. It determined these costs may be kept in line most effectively through water conservation practices, which include water auditing, facility maintenance, and pig waterer selection and management.

The fact sheet “Water Conservation in the Swine Industry” can be found on pork.org. Also, the Pork Checkoff will be introducing a new water-footprint calculator by the end of 2012. This unique tool will allow producers to input data from their farms and evaluate options for increasing water use efficiency.

For more information, contact Allan Stokes at AStokes@pork.org or 515-223-3447.

PQA Plus program enhancements approved

As the Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus program has developed over the years to reflect changes in the industry, producers have made the necessary additions to enhance the quality and credibility of the program. Following this tradition, Pork Act delegates attending the Pork Industry Forum held March 2012 in Denver, Colorado, approved new components for inclusion in the 2013 PQA Plus update.

These components include (1) Testing: A test consisting of no more than 25 questions related to animal well-being and pork safety will be added to the program. In order to pass the open-book test, participants may miss three questions. (2) Online Certification: While first-time certifications must be obtained through face-to-face training with a PQA Plus advisor or trainer, individuals who wish to renew their PQA Plus certification will be able to do so online. (3) Site Assessment: Upon completion of a site assessment in 2013, a producer must submit a corrective action plan for all noncompliances and follow up with the PQA Plus advisor in order to receive site assessment status. Frequency of site assessments will remain at the 3-year renewal time frame. (4) Trainers/Advisors Certifications: This group of individuals is receiving more extensive instructions and information needed to most effectively instruct producers.

As of March 2012, the program has continued to gain momentum, reaching 55,398 certified individuals and 18,155 site assessments.

For additional information regarding the PQA Plus program, contact Dinah Peebles at DPeebles@pork.org or 515-223-2795.

Pork Checkoff advances 2012 pork industry research

The National Pork Board’s six producer-led science and technology committees recently met in Dallas, Texas, to make decisions on how to advance pork producers’ research priorities. Many of the committees reviewed research proposals to select projects that the Pork Checkoff would fund in 2012. In all, the groups reviewed more than 100 proposals, ultimately selecting those that would be of greatest benefit to the overall industry.

Some of the new information and action, coming from the respective science and technology committees, included the following.

Animal Science. Research results, addressed by the Checkoff’s Nutritional Efficiency Consortium, are published at pork.org. The committee asked for a more comprehensive summary of this research to be available later this year. The committee has dedicated resources to work on pork quality as it relates to on-farm factors that could affect tenderness.

Animal Welfare. Proposals on pain management related to castration and euthanasia were funded. Work on the next version of Pork Quality Assurance Plus also was discussed, with the launch of the updated program slated for mid-2013. Housing and transportation research remain as key priorities.

Environment. The committee discussed the additional work on the carbon footprint that will be released in 2012, including a baseline report and improvements to the calculator tool. In 2013, an economic component for the calculator is expected, along with a water-footprint baseline and calculator and an air emissions model.

Pork Safety, Quality and Human Nutrition. Several proposals related to how the quality of fat affects overall meat quality were funded. The objective of the projects is to help producers raise animals that will provide high-quality pork to help increase consumer demand. For human nutrition, the committee identified priorities for the next call for research, including satiety, body composition, weight loss or maintenance, cognition function, and pork’s role in a healthy diet.

Producer/Public Health and Worker Safety. This newly formed committee approved its mission statement: “To acquire and provide science-based information that will protect and improve producer and public health, promote a safe farm-work environment, and enhance consumer confidence in US pork production.” Research funded included environmental movement of antimicrobial and resistant bacteria and resistant genes, as well as a study on the impact of pig health on public health.

Swine Health. The committee funded research on transmission and vaccine development for influenza and diagnostics and intervention strategies for swine dysentery, Mycoplasma, and rotavirus. Also funded was research on foreign-animal disease that could assist in the development of better vaccines for diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease. While not discussed at this meeting, PRRS remains a top concern, and a special call for PRRS research proposals will occur later this year.

For more information, contact Paul Sundberg, Checkoff’s vice president of science and technology, at PSundberg@pork.org or 515-223-2764.

Sow Lifetime Productivity Working Group meets

The Sow Lifetime Productivity Working Group, which includes producers from across the science and technology program areas, as well as other producers with a high interest in breeding-herd productivity and allied-industry representatives, met separately during Checkoff’s recent unified research meeting held in Dallas, Texas. The group discussed a multidisciplinary approach to improving sow lifetime productivity of the US herd. Also under discussion was the road map to achieve the specific research needs of the multi-year effort, with a goal of a 30% improvement in sow lifetime productivity over the next 7 years.

For more information, contact Chris Hostetler, Checkoff’s animal science director, at CHostetler@pork.org or 515-223-2606.