Canadian scientists to use genomics to address pig efficiency

Swine researchers in Canada have recently began a four-year, $9.8 million project that will develop genomic tools to select pigs that are more tolerant of, or resistant to, multiple diseases and in turn, help increase pork quality.

According to a recent article, the genomics tools they plan to develop will also allow producers to manage the nutritional content of pig feed to optimize pig’s health, resulting in reduced use of antibiotics. This will ensure that pigs stay healthier, grow more efficiently and have more successful litters.

Lead researched Michael Dyck, a researcher in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science at the University of Alberta, said in the article that managing disease in pork populations is one of the most costly and difficult challenges for pork producers because it’s so multifaceted. There are many diseases, and why and how different animals react differently, is very complex.

“Managing disease is a complex problem and in order to address it we needed to have a diverse group of people,” Dyck said in the article. Dyck brings biotechnology expertise to the project that also involves researchers with veterinarian and swine genetics backgrounds. Additionally, having a representative from industry also directly involved in the projet, allows the team to not only get results but tailor them so they can be integrated into the industry easily, the article states.

“We’re trying to identify animals that get sick and then don’t do so badly,” Dyck added.

This type of research is of the utmost importance because pork is the most consumed animal protein in the world and the regions of the world that consume it the most are expanding their populations rapidly.

Dyck added that creating genomic tools that better manage disease will both increase the international competitiveness of the Canadian pork industry and contribute to global food safety and security.

Currently, Canadian pork is exported to more than 100 countries and within five years of the project’s completion, it’s anticipated that the rate of genetic improvement and productivity will have an impact of more than $137 million.

This project grant is funded in large measure by the federal agency Genome Canada as part of its $93 million investment in new genomics projects meant to address challenges and opportunities for Canadian agriculture, fisheries and aquatics.

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