A government backed multi-million-pound investment is about to help upgrade the pig research facilities at University of Leeds.
The university is set to develop its current indoor-reared research facilities, as well as launch a new outdoor-reared system. The combined investment is in excess of £7m.
The director of the university farm, Professor Helen Miller, said the investment is designed to create new knowledge which will benefit both British pigs and the pig industry at large.
Professor Miller said: “Animal feed is the largest variable cost which the industry bears. One of the areas we will study in this new facility 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.”
The number of sows in the facility will increase from 200 to 600, 200 of which will live outdoors.
Larger sample sizes will increase the scope of research that can be conducted and will provide information to commercial farmers to enable them to make informed choices.
The university will also be requiring new staff, such as epidemiologist Professor Lisa Collins, who joins the institute in January.
The investment is supported by the government-funded Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock (CIEL).
Dr Mark Young, head of innovation at the centre said: “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. The University of Leeds outdoor pig unit is a key facility in our work to deliver user focused innovation to the pork industry.”
· A 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.