AN Australian Research Council Linkage grant to support a $900,000 research project to improve pig welfare by modulating stress resilience has been secured by Australasian Pork Research Institute Limited, the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, SunPork Solutions and Rivalea Australia.
ARC funding for the three-year project – Early stress experiences and stress resilience in pigs – was $450,000 with an additional $449,393 cash from other partners, of which $100,000 was from APRIL.
APRIL CEO and chief scientist John Pluske said the ARC grant was significant, with improving pig welfare a hot button issue in the Australasian pork industry.
“It marks the first instance of APRIL, on behalf of its members, successfully leveraging external funding for a major research project of industry-wide relevance,” Professor Pluske said.
“APRIL’s vision is for collaborative pork industry research, focused on industry led priorities, leading to timely generation and adoption of outcomes that are able to ensure the sustainability and profitability of Australasian pork producers.
“This project, backed by international collaboration, will have a global impact on new knowledge and improved husbandry.”
Paul Hemsworth, from the University of Melbourne’s animal welfare science centre, said the project would examine stress resilience in pigs and generate knowledge on early life management to endow stress resilience in pigs, with expected benefits for their welfare, health, productivity and subsequent farm profitability.
“Modern pig farming is a major source of food, providing substantial nutritional, social and economic benefits for Australia and the world,” Professor Hemsworth said.
“Animal welfare is of increasing concern to the public, consumers and pork producers and stress vulnerability is an animal health and production problem in the life of the commercial pig.”
Project investigators are Prof Hemsworth and the University of Qld’s Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation’s Prof Alan Tilbrook, USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Dr Jeremy Marchant Forde, the University of Melbourne’s Associate Prof Roger Rassool and Vienna University of Veterinary Medicine Prof Jean-Loup Rault.
The investigators agree that prior stressful experiences early in life may strengthen an animal’s resistance to subsequent stressors.
Professor Hemsworth said reducing farm animal stress would have substantial economic and social benefits, because stress reduced animal welfare, productivity and health.
“Importantly, public animal welfare concerns can dramatically affect welfare-based purchasing decisions and curtail farm profitability and the continued use of specific animal practices,” he said.