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New Infrastructure to Expand Research Swine Research Capability in Manitoba

by 5m Editor
15 September 2007, at 11:18am

CANADA - New infrastructure being purchased on behalf of the University of Manitoba (U of M) will allow the institution to expand its capabilities and capacities for swine research.

Last week (September 7) the federal government announced it will provide almost $200,000 to Manitoba Pork Council for the purchase of new equipment to be installed at the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment (NCLE) at Glenlea.

The funding will cover the purchase new electronic sow feeders for tracking feed intake, environmental monitoring equipment for looking at the concentration of airborne gases, such as ammonia, and additional specialized penning for the new research unit at NCLE, says Dr. Jim House an associate professor with the U of M’s department of animal science.

NCLE Research to Focus on Long Term Agricultural Sustainability

“The centre is focused on developing sustainable animal production systems and asking many questions which will provide answers to hog producers in terms of better housing systems, in terms of more comfortable housing for animals, also better management of the manure and incorporation of the manure into the crop production systems,” says University of Manitoba Associate vice-president research Dr. Digvir Jayas. “It is a unique centre which is focused on understanding integrated crop and livestock production systems.”

“This equipment really is facilitating a number of different research projects,” notes animal science department head Dr. Laurie Connor. “The sow feeders really facilitate any number of projects that will incorporate feeding regimes, feeding behavior, nutrient cycling through those sows in the two barns. Similarly the environmental monitoring equipment will provide much more detail from any number of projects that are going on within those facilities.”

Research Encompasses Integrated Whole Systems Approach

Dr. Jayas explains the NCLE project was created to gain an understanding of the whole life cycle between the crop and animal production systems. The end result of the research is to have sustainable animal and crop production systems for the prairie provinces. While the results will be transferable to the other parts of Canada and the world, the focus is on the prairie provinces.

“It is a systems approach and integrated approach where we are looking at the total crop and animal production system as an integrated system on a long term basis,” Dr. Jayas stresses.

Two Swine Production Systems to be Compared

Dr. House explains that the infrastructure enhancements will allow scientists to compare two different swine production systems over the long term: the more traditional slurry based or liquid manure based system and a system that is more dependent on the use of solid bedding or straw based systems. Research will examine how the manure is handled, opportunities and challenges with respect to the two different systems, including measures of productivity, indices of health and welfare in the pigs, and the economics of the system. Research will also explore the long term effect the two different production systems may have on linkages with the environment, including such things as nutrient movement through the different feeding and bedding systems and what implications the use of straw has on nitrogen and phosphorus movement in the soil.

“The feeding equipment, in particular, will allow us to address the challenges that are faced with the breeding herd, in particular the sows,” Dr. House notes. “We’ll have electronic sow feeders that will be able to more closely monitor and regulate feed intake in this breeding population and allow us to manage these in large groups as an alternative to the use of single sow stall placements.”

Ongoing Research Critical to Adapting to Change

“We’re under constant change in the industry here in Manitoba right now,” observes Manitoba Pork Council Chairman Karl Kynoch. “We’re constantly being faced with new environmental regulations.”

“We’re also being faced with new restrictions imposed by the food chains on how we handle our animals.

For example in the U.S. they are going to put a ban on sow stalls and Maple Leaf here in Canada has also set a date on eliminating those sow stalls.”

Kynoch stresses, “We don’t want to take a step backwards in animal husbandry so the more research we can do ahead of time before we reach these drop dead dates the better it’s going to be for the industry.

Right now producers feel we are using the best alternatives and if we’re going to be forced to move away from that we need to know how the different equipment will work on our operation.”

New Conservative Government Steps Up Support for Agriculture

Rod Bruinooge, the member of parliament for Winnipeg South, describes this latest support for research as one small component of trying to find stronger margins for livestock producers.

“There’s no questions there’s been a greater focus on the ag sector under the new administration,” he says. “Our government has a number of farmers in caucus and so there’s an extra sensibility of how our support can assist the agricultural industry and of course the livestock industry. As a parliamentarian, I’m sensitive to the fact that our dollar is approaching par with the United States currency.”

Research Already Underway

Dr. House points out that, while much of the research with respect to the impact of manure management and nutrient flow within the system is already underway, the introduction of the new infrastructure will definitely provide new capabilities and new capacities.

“That research is going to be ongoing and we expect interim results in the next year. But this is a long term commitment and a long term vision that we have for the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment and so many of these results will be published as we get them. But the view here is really to look at what are the implications over the longer term instead of in a short time window.”

Dr. Connor maintains, “This new equipment really puts us in very good position to be able to conduct the type of research and gather the type of information that we feel are going to be very useful for producers, for the industry, as well as for science in general and that whole knowledge base.”

5m Editor