Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


Can genomics revolutionize animal health?

University of Alberta led swine study tackles next health frontier

Posted: March 17, 2016

Dr. Michael Dyck

If Canada is going to maintain a successful position in the global pork marketplace, swine health and animal care promises to one of the deciding factors. Sustainable production and competitive pricing will be priorities and swine health and welfare.is both a social requirement and necessity for sustainable production.

Porcine health management represents a tremendous opportunity for the application of innovative genomic tools, says Dr. Michael Dyck of the University of Alberta. He was a wrap-up speaker of several leaders who spoke on the developments and potential of genomics at the 2016 Banff Pork Seminar.

One of the most promising developments is a major new study that brings together a significant team to build on what has been accomplished to date and head into new frontiers.

Disease constantly evolves and present new pressures, says Dyck. There is a need to develop genomic tools and production management practices to help protect animals exposed to multiple disease threats including the most significant disease currently affecting the pork industry.

At the same time there is pressure on antimicrobial use in pork production which may require more robust pigs to maintain production, he says.

The next phase of research will take a more broad approach and concentrate on disease resilience, which is a combination of tolerance and resistance. Pigs with increased disease resilience are better able to respond to health challenges and maintain reproductive and grow-finish performance.

The new study which runs from 2015 to 2019 will build on previous research accomplishments in the area, says Dyck.

The research will focus on four areas. The inter-disciplinary approach exploits: 1) host variation in disease susceptibility to identify individuals with improved resilience; 2) host-pathogen interactions to identify and augment host responses linked to resilience; 3) the role of microbial colonization in shaping immune responses and resilience; and 4) nutritional impacts on these interactions.

The study will also include societal and economic studies to determine the attitudes of various industry players and factors that could affect the rate of adoption of health and productivity related technologies.

The outcomes could include genomics-based tools for optimal disease resilience and management of nutritional strategies. These could improve end-users' ability to selected, feed and microbial management tools for optimal immune response of pigs.

Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.




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