July 18, 2021

Swine Species Symposium

Swine Species Symposium

By: Dr. Emily Taylor
Current Knowledge Gaps in Swine Reproduction – Dr. Brad Belstra, Fast Genetics

Dr. Belstra began the Swine Species Symposium by addressing critical gaps in swine reproduction. Today's talk was about the identification of swine reproduction opportunities, especially those that add value by addressing industry challenges and leveraging assisted reproductive technologies (ART). He gave a brief overview of how ART and genetic selection have impacted the swine industry over the last 30 years. The swine industry has done an excellent job of targeting reproductive improvement. However, there is still room for growth, which is what Dr. Belstra pinpointed today. A herd's reproductive efficiency has three interacting core components: litter size, farrow-to-farrow interval, age at 1st farrowing, and life expectancy.

Over the last 20 years, we have increased litter size by an average of 5 pigs, but only weaning around 2.5 more pigs – Is pig quality is negatively correlated with quantity? Dr. Belstra targeted management strategies to address stillbirths and colostrum intake in larger litters. The farrow-to-farrow interval has increased around 7% over the last 20 years. He discussed the possibility of better synchronizing their schedule. In Europe, they are working towards bringing sows into estrus before weaning. However, Dr. Belstra does not feel we are ready. In addition, lactation days have increased from 17-21d.  

Dr. Belstras believes genetic selection programs and production efficiency economics will have to be balanced with sow and pig welfare. Understanding underlying physiology and more accurate phenotypes can untangle their complex relationships with genotype and environment.

Current Knowledge Gaps in Swine Genetics – Dr. Justin Holl, Genus PIC

Dr. Holl began his presentation by telling us a little about PIC and its genetic improvement team. They were founded in England, and their goal was to bring farmers and researchers together. Many historical challenges fit into areas that are still current opportunities for genetic improvement – Data Capture, Complex Traits, Analytical Solutions, and Realizing Genetic Gain. Dr. Holl discussed improving quality phenotypes by using simple traits like weight – Repeatability is crucial, and could we used other technological advancements to aid in these simple measurements. In addition, we could improve the volume of the data by adding more repeated measurements, increasing the number of animals measured, and making sure we are taking these measurements in real-time.

Dr. Holl concluded that there are new bench, digital, and analytical tools emerging, and it may require new thinking and designs to manage. However, these new tools may help measure the more difficult and complex traits.

Current Knowledge Gaps in Swine Nutrition – Dr. Keith Haydon, CJ America – BIO

Dr. Haydon gave a brief overview of the progress that swine nutritionists have made over the years. For example, when he began, they were still balancing crude protein using a Pearson Square, and today we are using SID amino acid rations. He reviewed some historical milestones like synthetic AAs, ractopamine, ileal AA, and phytase. Dr. Haydon briefly discussed research utilizing synthetic AA and maintaining performance levels when feeding very low crude protein levels. He then used a past meta-analysis to explain the gaps with high fiber ingredients and believes we may need a productive energy system that focuses on carcass gain. Additionally, many strides have been made in microbiome analysis, but do we know how to feed/manage the biome for optimal GI health? Dr. Haydon described opportunities for more research with AA, CHO, enzymes, and microbiota.

Current Knowledge Gaps in Swine Production Management – Ashley DeDecker, Smithfield Foods

Dr. DeDecker asked the audience who dried their baby pigs and why? She then explained that the literature says that using drying agents will increase rectal temperatures in low-birth-weight pigs, but it did not improve pig survival. They then applied drying agents on scouring pigs and found that this would reduce the numbers of weaned pigs – they realized this disrupts the piglets and could increase the potential of them getting laid on. In addition, just adding heat from a mat or lamp did not increase piglet survival. Therefore, this caused her to return to the basics of swine management. 

To further understand what was happening, Dr. DeDecker started challenging standard management procedures with repeated research. She presented data on day one pig care, gilt development, facility design, wean pig management, and technology’s place. In summary, she realized the devil is in the details of each of these processes. We need to understand which component of each method is impactful. Also, there is a lot of opportunity for technology and big data to ease our troubles.

Awardee Talk: Challenges and Opportunities Facing Mineral Nutrition in the Next Decade – Dr. John Patience, Iowa State University

Dr. Patience discussed the accelerated pace at which mineral nutrition is evolving. Topics of past and current research have been clarification of mineral requirements, evaluation of mineral sources, the definition of mineral bioavailability, and physiological and metabolic interactions among minerals. In addition, new topics like oxidative stress in swine and the interaction of minerals with fiber. Dr. Patience identified a few questions we still have in the industry; Should we include mineral nutrition in precision feeding programs? Does electrolyte balance have a greater value in production today than previously considered? Ultimately, mineral nutrition heavily impacts the swine industry, and more research is needed to establish their importance further.