Keeping on top of new technologies is critical for businesses to remain competitive and profitable. Technology for data recording is becoming increasingly important and more affordable in pork production whether you are a commercial hog producer, a swine genetics company or involved in the packing and processing of pork. It simply comes down the old adage that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. But of course, there is much more to it than simply adopting every technology that you hear or read about. There is a need to identify technologies that can truly help your business and be sure the technologies can work as promised. It can be challenging, if not impossible, for individual businesses to adequately assess and test many of the promising technologies that are out there. Collective efforts by the industry can address this challenge and with that in mind, the Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement (CCSI) is coordinating a large collaborative project on novel technologies. Some of the technologies tested can help monitoring pigs from nursery through to market weight. Others measure carcass and pork quality attributes. There are even technologies able to predict carcass and pork quality on the live animal.
The project includes the following pilot studies, three on live pigs and five on carcass and pork quality:
- Automated recording of feed/water intake and 3D vision systems to estimate weight/conformation
- Infrared thermography diagnostic platform to monitor swine to health and predict feed efficiency
- Use of accelerometers to automatically assess pig behaviour and welfare
- Using 3D vision for rapid and objective hog carcass quality assessment
- Rapid in vivo prediction of pork composition and quality traits using near-infrared spectroscopy
- Determination of the age of bruises on pig carcasses at slaughter
- Application of rapid methods for non-invasive assessment of pork quality
- Quick, non-invasive technology for prediction of loin marbling in fresh loins on the cutting line
These pilot studies are underway in research facilities and will be completed during 2016. The results will help the industry to make informed decisions about these technologies. In each case we need to consider the value of what is being measured as well as the accuracy, the cost and the practicality. Knowing which technologies are not ready yet is just as important as knowing which technologies are ready for commercial testing. From those that are deemed ready, the goal is to work with industry partners to test each selected technology on a total of at least 1000 pigs and carcasses.
One of the technologies that is now being considered for commercial tests is the automated recording of water intake. In the pilot study the water intake on individual pigs has been found to correlate highly with feed intake. As well, sudden changes in water intake can be indicators of individual pig health. The technology may also be helpful in assessing and reducing water wastage which was found to vary considerably amongst individual pigs. This could lead to a practical tool which can improve efficiency and pig health while also reducing environmental impact.
The overall project is assessing several novel technologies which can help producers to monitor health, welfare and feed efficiency while also offering tools to predict and enhance carcass value. There are also technologies for packers to better evaluate carcass and pork quality. This will allow them to get more value from each carcass and also to provide signals back to producers to motivate further improvement. The importance of attracting investment in new technologies is apparent as all industries are benefiting from greater data management and process control through electronically controlled devices. An added advantage of moving toward novel technologies and more electronically controlled devices is the attraction of new employees seeking to use their technical skills and interest as part of their career, thus a benefit in the pork industry to attract younger and well qualified personnel.
This project is funded by Swine Innovation Porc within the Swine Cluster 2: Driving Results Through Innovation research program. Funding is provided by Agriculture and Agri‐Food Canada through the AgriInnovation Program, provincial producer organizations and industry partners.
About the Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement (CCSI)
CCSI is a non-profit organization created in 1994 to provide support to the Canadian pork industry by providing leadership, innovation and coordination in national genetic evaluations; database establishment and maintenance; program standards; and research and development. Members include Canadian Pork Council, Canadian Meat Council, Canadian Swine Breeders Association, regional swine improvement centres and users of the Canadian Swine Improvement Program.
Floor space allowance is a complex issue in swine production, and one that is critical for both economic and welfare reasons. The quantity of space provided substantially affects pig welfare by influencing behaviour, stress and social interactions, and has significant economic impacts on productivity and the total pig throughput possible on a farm. It’s important that recommendations for the minimum floor space allowance for groups of pigs are not arbitrary, but based on sound biological and economic research. The current space allowance requirements specified in the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs are largely based on research performed on grower-finisher pigs. However, comparatively little is known on the effects of space allowance on nursery pigs, and current space allowance requirements may overestimate the requirements for nursery pigs due to their increased willingness to overlie one another. The objective of this project is to determine a precise value for the minimum space allowance for nursery pigs which provides an optimal and scientifically defensible balance between profitability and animal welfare.
Effective enrichments have been shown to reduce aggression and injuries, and can be an effective tool to improve the management of group-housed sows. This project set out to identify the most effective forms of enrichment based on attractiveness, durability, and sustainability of a range of enrichment objects. The objects identified as most effective within this study will be used in a future enrichment study.
Groups of 28 multiparous sows and gilts were housed in walk in/lock in stalls with a partially slatted loafing area. Five treatments were examined over five days, including: 1) a horizontal piece of wood (4”x4”), suspended on chains between two posts; 2) a block of wood (18”x 2”x 4”), attached to a chain allowing the block to rest at a 450 angle; 3) three items (rope, chain, and wood block) hung together on a chain; 4) straw provided in two metal racks; and 5) straw placed on the solid floor at 300g/day/sow.
When looking at the overall interaction, the percentage of sows interacting with enrichment items on day 1 far exceeded those on days 3 and 5. This habituation response was expected. There was an increase in sows lying down throughout the five day treatment with the swing, straw on the floor, and straw in a rack treatment groups. Ranking the enrichment treatments according to durability, safety, and sow attractiveness resulted in the following ratings (first to last): straw on the floor, straw in a rack, three-item enrichment, and the block of wood. Based on these results, the straw, cotton rope and the wooden block treatments will be further examined in the next phase of the study.
Lameness accounts for 25% of the culling reasons for sows, but the current evaluation method is mainly through observation. Therefore, the accuracy of detecting lameness varies greatly. The use of force plates has been used to detect lameness in cattle, and this study tries to determine whether force plates can be used for sows as well. The objectives were i)to develop a scale to measure weight distribution per limb ii)to validate the use of force plates for measuring lameness in sows and iii)to determine the effect of analgesics on weight distribution in lame sows.
Results were calculated by measuring the percent of body weight on each limb, measuring the ratio of weight between left and right limbs, and recording the frequency and amplitude of weight shifting between left and right limbs. Weight shifting frequency was found to be significantly different between lame and sound sows in front legs (score 0:22.5 ± 1.64, score 1: 24.77 ± 1.86, score 2: 33.3 ± 1.94, P<0.001), and hind legs (score 0: 20.4 ±1.80, score 1: 21.89 ± 2.04, score 2: 31.3 ± 2.13, P<0.001). The lameness score was measured by observing gait: 0 being normal strides, and 4 being no movement due to lameness. The ratio of body weight distributed between rear legs was also significant with a decreased ratio with increasing lameness score (score 0: 0.72 [0.67-0.76], score 1: 0.71 [0.66-0.75], score 2: 0.62 [0.57-0.68], P<0.05).
Overall, it was found that there was more variation in weight distribution, and increased weight shifting in the lame sows. While force plates seem to be able to detect lameness the precision and thresholds need to be studied further. As well, the force plates cannot detect gait disorders, so it is recommended to still use visual observations.
As part of a review of future research and development possibilities in the area of swine reproductive biology and breeding herd management (Foxcroft, 2012), a number of key areas of future interest were identified. One centred around the gene x environment interactions that determine the final phenotype of production-level progeny in mature sow populations. Understanding the mechanistic basis for the observed gene x environment interactions that drive “litter of origin” effects on post-natal performance has been an important part of our research program. The outcomes from these studies suggest ways to identify litter phenotypes and to create production strategies to address existing “phenotypic plasticity”. The possibility of using a nutrigenomic approach to offset such programmed effects has also been explored. At a more basic level, the goal is to find genomic/epigenomic markers for the key biological traits that drive these gene x environment outcomes, with the aim of including genetic markers for these component traits in more sophisticated breeding programs that deliver replacement gilts for commercial production. A second area of focus was driven by recent opportunities, at least in North and South America, to determine individual boar fertility in large commercial boar studs. This constitutes the first step in improving the impact of genetically superior sires on the number, and particularly the quality, of commercial progeny. At the same time, access to fertility data from large populations of terminal-line boars enables association analyses that will hopefully allow genomic and proteomic markers of boar fertility to be identified. A more detailed discussion of recent collaborative studies on boar fertility will be presented by Amanda Minton in Breakout # 11 at this meeting. As part of this74 Foxcroft et al presentation, data from the same collaborative studies will be used to identify the extent to which variability in boar fertility, and current AI practices in the industry, has probably been limiting the performance of outstanding dam-line females.
As part of a review of future research and development possibilities in the area of swine reproductive biology and breeding herd management (Foxcroft, 2012), a number of key areas of future interest were identified. One centred around the gene x environment interactions that determine the final phenotype of production-level progeny in mature sow populations. Understanding the mechanistic basis for the observed gene x environment interactions that drive “litter of origin” effects on post-natal performance has been an important part of our research program. The outcomes from these studies suggest ways to identify litter phenotypes and to create production strategies to address existing “phenotypic plasticity”. The possibility of using a nutrigenomic approach to offset such programmed effects has also been explored. At a more basic level, the goal is to find genomic/epigenomic markers for the key biological traits that drive these gene x environment outcomes, with the aim of including genetic markers for these component traits in more sophisticated breeding programs that deliver replacement gilts for commercial production.
A second area of focus was driven by recent opportunities, at least in North and South America, to determine individual boar fertility in large commercial boar studs. This constitutes the first step in improving the impact of genetically superior sires on the number, and particularly the quality, of commercial progeny. At the same time, access to fertility data from large populations of terminal-line boars enables association analyses that will hopefully allow genomic and proteomic markers of boar fertility to be identified. A more detailed discussion of recent collaborative studies on boar fertility will be presented by Amanda Minton in Breakout # 11 at this meeting. As part of this74 Foxcroft et al presentation, data from the same collaborative studies will be used to identify the extent to which variability in boar fertility, and current AI practices in the industry, has probably been limiting the performance of outstanding dam-line females.
Consumers in North America don’t like to see the muscle fat in their meat, but their taste buds actually prefer some intramuscular marbling. In Japan, it is the opposite; there, consumers want to see the fat and they pay a premium for more intramuscular marbling.
To help the pork industry deal with complicated consumer preferences, the Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement is conducting a cross-Canada, three-year evaluation of about 6,000 Duroc pigs so that breeders can select the best candidates to sire the next generation of market pigs.
Brian Sullivan, the Ottawa-based CEO of the Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement, says the evaluations are being done using ultrasound along with software technology developed at Iowa State University. Trained technicians take ultrasound images of the pigs. The images are uploaded into the centre’s database, where they are reviewed using the Iowa State University software to come up with an estimate of intramuscular fat.
Research examining the factors affecting the productivity of group housed sows will assist Canada’s pork producers as they consider the switch to group sow housing systems. As part of a multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary initiative being conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation-Porc, scientists with the University of Manitoba, the University of Saskatchewan, the Prairie Swine Centre, the University of Guelph and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are examining the productivity of sows depending on their housing system, the role of temperament in the ability of sows to behave in groups, the impact of calcium and phosphorus on lameness, the role of parity and the use of infrared to detect lameness. Dr. Nicolas Devillers, a research scientist pig behavior and welfare with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, notes there’s an overall move around the world to group housing systems. Clip-Dr. Nicolas Devillers-Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: We hope it will be useful to producers because it will give them information first on what are the best housing systems that can be used without affecting productivity of sows and what are the consequences of the different choices for the different systems, for example, for the floor on the longevity of sows. This is better information for producers, if they want to use group housing systems, to choose the best system. So we will have indicators of lameness. These indicators, for the moment, are measured with quite complicated techniques but we hope to be able to apply them on farm and to give producers some tools to be able to detect lameness earlier and to develop some strategies to reduce the occurrence of lameness in sows. Dr. Devillers says the results could be used, for example, by veterinarians to diagnose lameness or for quality assurance programs as welfare indicators. He says the data is now being analyzed, the first reports should be available in 2013 and will be communicated by the Canadian Swine Research and Development Cluster through it’s web site at SwineInnovationPorc.Ca. For Farmscape.Ca, I’m Bruce Cochrane.
When feed exceeds 72% of pork production cost, it forces us to explore ways to reduce feed costs beyond desperation. Recent work funded through the Canola Cluster led by Eduardo Beltranena at Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development explored opportunities for reducing feed cost feeding conventional solvent-extracted canola meal at unusually high inclusions. “We went beyond producers’ comfort level” says Beltranena.
In the past, canola meal was fed at conservative levels due to palatability issues that reduced feed intake. Over the last 30 years plant breeders have bred canola varieties containing progressively lower levels of glucosinolates. Canola meal produced today typically tests 5 to 6 instead of 30 µmol/g before that was the threshold to call it ‘canola’ instead of ‘rapeseed’. “We have tested loads as low as 2” says Eduardo. “The bitter taste imparted by glucosinolates is no longer a palatability concern even at today’s high canola meal inclusion in pig and poultry diets”.
The other issue feeding canola meal to pigs is a relative high fibre content that limits its dietary energy value. “We now formulate diets on net energy instead of metabolizable or digestible energy basis. We better account now for the increase in heat production resulting from feeding increasing inclusion of high protein, high fibrous feedstuffs like canola meal, distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) or millrun. We blamed the ingredient instead of the energy system before for the drop in growth performance due to incremental inclusions. Now formulating diets on net energy basis results in more predictable growth”. We have proven so in 3 recent studies feeding high inclusions of solvent-extracted canola meal:
In the first study, we fed increasing inclusions of canola meal in substitution for soybean meal to weaned pigs. Feeding up to 20% canola meal did not affect daily feed disappearance, weight gain, and final trial pig weight. Weaned pigs showed a tendency for reduced feed efficiency due to increasing fibre content.
A second experiment involving 1,100 hogs examined increasing inclusion of canola meal (0 – 24%) in growout diets containing 15% DDGS. Hogs fed 24% canola meal reached market weight only 3 days later than controls, with no impact on carcass weight, dressing percent, backfat, loin depth, pork yield or index.
A third commercial-scale trial with 1,100 hogs pushed canola meal inclusion further to 30% with 20% DDGS. Feed disappearance and weigh gain were reduced by 81 g/day and 9 g/day for every 10% increase in canola meal inclusion. Number of days to market weight increased by 1, carcass weight was reduced by 0.46kg, dressing percent dropped 0.4 points, and loin depth was reduced by 0.5 mm for every 10% increase in canola meal inclusion. However, hogs consumed up to 50% local coproducts instead of imported soybean meal without major reductions on hog growth performance or carcass traits.
Benefit to the Producer
It is thus feasible feeding up to 20% solvent-extracted canola meal to weaned pigs and 30% with 20% wheat DDGS in commercial hog diets formulated on net energy and digestible amino acid basis. Canola and DDGS inclusion rates will fluctuate with commodity cost and should be routinely optimized by least cost formulation. Feeding these fibrous coproducts increases gut weight at evisceration. Producers thus need to market hogs 1 – 2kg heavier live weight to achieve target carcass weight.