Meet Texas Tech University's Edgar Aviles-Rosa, an up and coming voice of the pork industry who's passionate about swine welfare and making a difference in the industry.
Hometown: Aguada, Puerto Rico
Education: BS and MS in animal science, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez; currently pursuing Ph.D. at Texas Tech University
Q. What is your background in the swine industry?
A.I grew up in a small town located along the west cost of Puerto Rico. Originally, I started working with beef cattle while I was a student at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. During my last semester as an undergraduate student, I took an environmental physiology course which was taught by a swine specialist. In the class, we often discussed heat stress in pigs and how to help pigs cope with it. After studying the industry and its problems, I decided to continue my carrier trying to improve swine welfare. It was thanks to that class, that I uncovered my passion for pig production and welfare, specifically in tropical climates.
Q. Tell us about your internship experiences.
A. In order to get your bachelor’s degree in animal science in Puerto Rico, you must do a summer practicum with a producer. This is intended to help you get to know the industry and people within it. However, instead of teaching me about the industry, the producer I was assigned to made me fix pens with block and cement. Although I did not learn about pigs during my summer practice, I did learn a lot about construction.
Q. Did you take part in undergraduate research?
A. I never did research as an undergraduate student, but it would have been a great opportunity.
Q. What other learning opportunities have you been involved in?
A. My earliest memories of working with pigs took place when I was about 5 years old. I remember going with my grandma to feed leftovers to the family pig. In Puerto Rico, it was common to have a family pig and raise it for a special occasion. I remember my grandma’s pig corral under a tree and that every day she fed him with the leftovers. Now looking back, I realize that I was around pigs to some degree most of my life.
Q. Tell us about your current research.
A. My current research is on swine welfare and behavior under Dr. John McGlone at Texas Tech. The main purpose of my doctoral research is the identification and characterization of a natural sow maternal semiochemical that could be used to reduce stress and aggression in weaning piglets. Piglets have an extraordinary sense of smell and it could be that one of the reasons for weaning stress is the absence of maternal or familiar odors in the weaning environment. Thus, the use of maternal semiochemicals could be a novel way to improve piglet welfare at weaning. Pig semiochemicals can be a natural way to improve production. My future career goals are to study how the current changes in housing systems improve animal welfare by studying pig behavior and production in a non-anthropomorphic way. In addition, I would like to find novel ways to reduce stress and aggression in wean piglets and sows.
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