A £7m investment in new pig research facilities has been announced by the University of Leeds, with backing from the government-funded Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock (CIEL).
The investment, which will include increasing the university’s own pig herd from 200 to 600 sows, centres on the creation of new facilities to carry out research into outdoor-reared pigs, alongside a significant upgrade of its indoor-reared pig research centre. The development is part of the overall CIEL plan to establish Leeds University as the UK’s lead organisation for pig research.
Project themes identified for the completed facilities include improving UK pig quality and productivity; based on improvements in animal nutrition, production systems and reproduction, behaviour and environment.
“Animal feed is the largest variable cost which the industry bears,” said University farm director, Professor Helen Miller. “One of the areas we will study in the new facility, therefore, is how to improve outdoor sow nutrition to maximise the wellbeing and productivity of individual animals. This should also result in improved profitability, providing significant support for individual farmers and for larger businesses across the rural economy.”
One third of the University’s expanded pig herd will live outdoors, a move which is seen as creating a “step change” in the type of research the University’s academics can carry out.
New equipment and facilities will include:
- CCTV network to monitor the pig herd 24/7.
- Equipment to automatically feed and monitor what each pig consumes.
- Devices which will let pigs choose what they want to eat, and monitor their choices.
- Technical facilities to identify each pig genetically through its DNA.
- Teaching centres and on-site laboratories to complement high-spec campus labs.
- New animal accommodation including flexible penning and birthing arrangements.
The £7m investment is majority funded by the University. This runs alongside support from CIEL, the UK-wide programme which links leading livestock research bodies with industry partners, to improve livestock quality and husbandry across the board. There are currently 20 business and industrial partners attached to CIEL, including AB Agri, Tesco, ForFarmers, The Co-Operative Group and Devenish Nutrition.
“CIEL is investing in world class facilities to empower our world class scientists with the aim of driving innovation to enhance livestock food production across the supply chain,” said CIEL’s head of innovation, Dr Mark Young.
“Our focus on innovation and our industry membership mean this will deliver real value to all parts of the supply chain. The University of Leeds outdoor pig unit is a key facility in our work to deliver user focused innovation to the pork industry.”
Headline image shows the University’s outdoor pig herd