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Research underway to benefit sustainability of swine industry

The Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan is working to develop an on-farm tool for pork production companies to make business decisions to meet animal welfare and sustainability goals.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in partnership with 14 industry partners and the university provided funding for the research program in swine welfare. The program is led by Dr. Yolane Seddon. Her team of four research scientists and technicians will study data gathered from interviews with producers who make management decisions, as well as herd vets in Canada and the United States.

“The outcome of this work is that we aim to produce a tool that will support decision making on the farm that will influence animal welfare, but also with the knowledge of how it interacts with business, profitability and environmental emissions and therefore, overall business sustainability goals that could influence market access,” Seddon explained.

The 75-minute interview covers a wide range of topics including what animal welfare means to the participants. Seddon said its to get an idea of what indicators they use to monitor welfare and what’s important to themselves or the company they work for.

“We also ask questions about aspects of animal management and how, in their experience, they consider it relates to animal welfare and production and also other business sustainability goals including how this impacts staff well-being.”

Seddon said data gathered from the interviews will not only be used in this study, but in future research as well.

“It’s enabling us to actually capture the first-hand experiences of the industry in managing and making decisions over animal welfare, including a number of things that are quite challenging to put in practice. This is simply not being captured in scientific literature. It’s really valuable to hear the industry’s side of the story on this because its typically not heard.”

Information from the study will be distributed first to those who are participating in the interviews. They will also be provided with the tool and shown a demonstration. Additionally, the work will be published and presented at pork producer meetings.

“A further component of this work is that once we have started to develop the tool, we will be wanting to go and validate and test it on farms and we expect this to be done later in 2024 in order to have a final tool ready in early 2025.”

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