Page 3 - Pork Newspaper - February 2018
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CRC looks up genes to see what it can see
THIS month I will update you on three recently com- pleted Pork CRC projects.
Two attempted to develop traits and techniques for dis- ease resilience and progeny survival and one compared how swing-sided farrowing pens and farrowing crates im- pact piglet survival and per- formance.
Fitting genes
There has been a chase glob- ally for means of selecting pigs that are genetically more resil- ient to variation in the environ- ment and disease challenge.
Progress has been slow because of the difficulty in measuring the relevant traits in enough pigs and getting ad- equate numbers across envi- ronments.
We know that more feed-effi- cient pigs seem to have greater resilience to disease challenge and that genomics is likely to help identify the relevant ani- mals and progress a potentially big advance in disease man- agement.
However, geneticists at AG- BU, Armidale, NSW, have re- cently made good progress. Resilience measure
First, AGBU Assoc Prof Su- sanne Hermesch and her col- leagues globally reported in their results from Pork CRC Project 2B-105 ‘Genetic pa- rameters for health, survival, immune competence, post- weaning growth and disease resilience of pigs’ that answers may lie in haematological traits and performance of pigs im- mediately after weaning (to five weeks of age).
The two are related and the researchers suggest the main haematological traits are hap- toglobin and white blood cell count.
It appears they have some-
thing here and need more in- formation linking these traits (haematological measure and performance to five weeks) to survival and performance to sale.
Immune tests
Second, Dr Kim Bunter from AGBU, working with scientists at CSIRO and Rivalea Aus- tralia within Pork CRC Project 2B-106 ‘Simple tests for im- mune responsiveness of sires and the association with pig- let mortality’ developed some simple tests that identified sires with significantly higher estimated breeding values for pre-weaning survival.
The project aimed to develop a testing procedure to obtain immune competence pheno- types for mature boars and to subsequently investigate if sire variation in immune compe- tence was reflected by differ- ences in the survival of their offspring (pre and post-wean- ing) and/or potentially other performance attributes.
The researchers developed a commercially practical proce- dure to obtain immune com- petence phenotypes for mature boars.
Boars were allocated into immune competence groups based on their relative rank- ings for humoral immunity (antibody production) and cell-
mediated immunity (delayed- type hypersensitivity skin test). Great outcome
The researchers found that immune grouping of boars was significantly (p=0.004) associated with EBVs for pre- weaning survival of piglets, suggesting variation in im- mune competence of sires was transmitted to offspring, with impact on survival outcomes for piglets.
There was no evidence for antagonistic associations be- tween immune competence grouping of boars and genetic merit for other economically important traits.
They concluded that immune competence testing, using the testing procedure developed, was feasible in the Australian pig industry.
Results from similar test procedures applied in other industries have demonstrated reduced incidence and severity of disease, as well as cost sav- ings and production benefits for genotypes with high im- mune responsiveness.
I think it’s an important out- come and combined with the results of Pork CRC Project 2B-105 suggests we may be getting closer to genetic means of improving animal health and reducing our reliance on antibiotics.
Details of both projects are included in the final reports on Pork CRC’s website – both represent excellence in science and have commercial implica- tions.
Well worth reading.
To discuss the implications further, contact Kim Bunter (2B-106) or Susanne Hermesch (2B-105).
Reducing confinement
The most recent research re- port on alternatives to farrow- ing crates is Pork CRC Project 1A-110.
In 1A-110, Dr William van Wettere from the University of Adelaide and his colleagues from SunPork Farms SA in- vestigated the survival and performance of piglets under different management systems in swing-sided farrowing pens.
They compared these with moving sows and litters from farrowing crates to single lit- ter pens at day seven and with sows and litters housed in far- rowing crates throughout lacta- tion.
Swing-sided pens, which en- able one side to be opened at any time, giving the sow and litter more freedom, have been promoted by the Danes and others during the past three years, although their practical- ity and welfare implications remain questionable.
The three swing-sided pen treatments investigated in the study were: pens closed from
☛ continued P4
AGBU Assoc Prof Susanne Hermesch is a consistent contribu- tor and questioner at Pork CRC’s annual Stakeholders’ Day. Last year in Melbourne she confirmed how her work on genetic parameters may positively impact disease resilience in pigs.
Dr Kim Bunter (left) from AGBU chatted about disease resil- ience in pigs with Dr Alison Collins of NSW DPI during a break at the 2017 Pork CRC Stakeholders’ Meeting in Melbourne. Both receive project support from Pork CRC and are breaking new ground.
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Australian Pork Newspaper, February 2018 – Page 3

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