The AWSC, University of Melbourne is leading an Australian Research Council Linkage project aimed at improving pig welfare by modulating stress resilience.
Project partners include the University of Queensland, the University of Vienna, the US Dept of Ag, Australasian Pork Research Institute Limited, SunPork Solutions and Rivalea Australia. ARC funding for the three-year project, ‘Early stress experiences and stress resilience in pigs’, was $450,000 with an additional $449,393 cash from the partners.
Paul Hemsworth, Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne, and Alan Tilbrook, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, The University of Queensland, said the project would examine stress resilience in pigs and generate knowledge on early life management to endow stress resilience in pigs, with expected benefits for their welfare, health, productivity and subsequent farm profitability.
“Modern pig farming is a major source of food, providing substantial nutritional, social and economic benefits for Australia and the world,” Professor Hemsworth said. “Animal welfare is of increasing concern to the public, consumers and pork producers and stress vulnerability is an animal health and production problem in the life of the commercial pig.”
Project investigators are Professor Paul Hemsworth (The University of Melbourne); Professor Alan Tilbrook (The University of Queensland); Dr Jeremy Marchant Forde (USDA - Agricultural Research Service, USA); Associate Professor Roger Rassool (The University of Melbourne) and Professor Jean-Loup Rault (University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna).
The investigators agree that prior stressful experiences early in life may strengthen an animal’s resistance to subsequent stressors.
Professor Hemsworth said reducing farm animal stress would have substantial economic and social benefits, because stress reduced animal welfare, productivity and health. “Importantly, public animal welfare concerns can dramatically affect welfare-based purchasing decisions and curtail farm profitability and the continued use of specific animal practices,” he noted.