Farm Journal PORK's new series, Up & Coming Leaders, connects you to some of the pork industry's brightest new stars as they pursue their advanced degrees and chart their courses for an exciting future in the swine industry. Click below to meet each one, or email editor Jennifer Shike to nominate others.
Talia Everding, South Dakota State University
Everding is studying the stress hormone cortisol, specifically its deposition in the hairs of gestating sows, and whether there is a difference between sows in pen gestation versus stall gestation. Cortisol can be collected at a single point in time from blood, saliva or manure, but only gives a picture of potential "stress" at that time. However, cortisol accumulation in hair allows us to assess stress over the course of gestation, providing a clearer picture of potential chronic stress. Consumers have been pushing to phase out gestation stalls because of welfare implications, but the research remains conflicted as to what housing system causes the least stress on the animal. We expect that this work will help to develop sow housing systems beneficial to the sows and the workers who care for them.
Austin Putz, Iowa State University
Putz is studying disease resistance in pigs with a group of professors and industry leaders from the main Canadian swine breeding companies who joined together to create a collaboration between industry and academia called PigGen Canada. In our disease resistance trials, barrows from a clean multiplier are sent through a highly diseased barn that naturally infects new pigs from older ones in a continuous flow system. My research focuses on the ability to quantify the level of disease resistance in each pig by using individual daily feed intake over time. I have developed novel traits to quantify disease resistance.
Edgar Aviles-Rosa, Texas Tech University
Aviles-Rosa is working 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.
Marjorie Schleper, University of Minnesota
Schleper is working in the Mycoplasma Research Lab at the College of Veterinary Medicine. I recently finished a project comparing Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae inoculation techniques for gilt acclimation projects. Finding an effective and safe method of inoculation that is easy to execute is extremely important for obtaining and maintaining stability in the sow herd and ultimately, producing healthier pigs.
Hayden Williams, Kansas State University
Williams is researching iron supplementation in pre- and postweaned pigs, including the effect of in-feed supplementation of iron on nursery pigs and the effects of iron dosage and injection timing after birth on preweaning, nursery and grow-finisher performance. My initial findings show iron injection dosage and timing after birth plays a vital role in growth and development. The amount and timing of injections can have a lasting effect on nursery and grow-finish performance. Also, iron-deficient pigs at weaning can restore blood levels similar to that of pigs receiving an iron injection by the end of the nursery when consuming diets supplemented with adequate iron.
Jessica Lowell, University of Illinois
Everything from diet to transportation can affect meat quality. Pork is the most consumed animal protein in the world and is exported to countries such as Mexico, Japan and China. Mexican consumers prefer a high lean product, while Japanese consumers prefer a darker, more highly marbled product. Contrasting demands means pork quality and carcass characteristics are now essential breeding objectives. One challenge in meeting consumer quality demands is the difference between when packers and consumers assess quality. For my Ph.D. dissertation, I established correlations or relationships between early quality (what the packers see) and aged quality (what the consumers see). I also determined whether those relationships are different between sex and/or sire line. This helps producers and packers understand quality traits they can use when selecting product and decide if they should account for sex or sire line when using early quality traits to estimate aged quality observed by the consumer.