ClosedAgriculture & Agri-food

Application of genomics to improve disease resilience and sustainability in pork production

PROJECT LEAD(S)/CO-LEAD(S) Michael Dyck (University of Alberta), Bob Kemp (Genesus Genetics) & John Harding (University of Saskatchewan)
COMPETITION/ FUNDING OPPORTUNITY Genome Canada - 2014 Large Scale Applied Research Project Competition
PROJECT START DATE October 1, 2015
PROJECT END DATE March 31, 2021

In pork production, disease presents one of the largest costs and most difficult challenges to manage. It has a negative impact on animal welfare and likely contributes to poor public perception of animal production in terms of food safety and antimicrobial resistance. Genomics offers new opportunities to reduce these costs and improve the image of pork producers. In this project, genomics is being used to investigate how pigs respond to infection to minimize the impact of disease; an attribute referred to as disease resilience. The team aims to increase the international competitiveness of the Canadian pork industry and its contributions to global food safety/security by developing genomics tools that Canadian breeders and producers can use to 1) select for pigs that are more genetically resilient—a combination of tolerance and resistance—to disease, and 2) manage the nutritional content of pig feed to optimize the gut microbiome. Such pigs stay healthier, grow more and have more successful litters. This will also reduce the need for antibiotic use in pig production. Through this project the role of the microbiome, immune response, maternal effects, feed management, and producer decision-making behaviours will also be examined. The ultimate goal is to support the integration of resilience strategies into the pork industry.

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