Welcome to the final edition of APRIL News for 2021.
First, I would sincerely like to thank all of the presenters [David Baines (NZ Pork Industry Board), Dr Mark O’Dea (DPIRD WA), Dr Alice Weaver (SARDI), Dr Rob Smits (APL), Lauren Staveley (SunPork Solutions), Steve Lydeamore (Anatara Lifesciences), Dr Ricardo Esquerra (Ridley) and Dr Tom Harrison (Apiam Animal Health)] and attendees who participated in APRIL’s Stakeholders’ Forum, on 15 November.
Again, and unfortunately, the Forum could not be held in a face-to-face format as was going to occur, in association with the 18th biennial conference of the Australasian Pig Science Association (APSA) in Brisbane. Nonetheless, in excess of 75 registrants tuned in for the event, and participated in questions and answers and feedback. This remains an important annual event to exchange important industry information and experiences and provide updates and overviews on APRIL projects.
Please let me know if you would like any further information from the Forum.
The Stakeholders’ Forum was preceded by APRIL’s Annual General Meeting, and congratulations to Neil Ferguson (Westpork Pty Ltd.) for being re-elected to the APRIL Board.
I mentioned in the last Newsletter that a consortium, with SunPork Pty Ltd. as the Lead Applicant, had applied for a Round 11 CRC-Project (CRC-P) titled, Eliminating pig tail removal to improve welfare and industry sustainability. In early September, SunPork Pty Ltd. was advised that the CRC-P had been supported by the Australian Government. Other partners in the 3-year project are APRIL, Australian Pork Limited, PIC Australasia P ty Ltd., Rivalea (Australia) Pty Ltd., RSPCA Australia, The University of Melbourne, The University of Queensland, and the University of New England.
The application requested, and received, an Australian Government cash investment of $2,892,374 over 3 years, which combined with the project partners’ cash contribution of $1,638,742 ($750,000 from APRIL), has been able to leverage an additional $3,345,078 of combined in-kind contributions from the partners. The project directly addresses a key Transformational Project objective in APRIL’s Strategic Plan., and will also provide opportunities for support and training for a number of Honours students, postgraduate students, and early-career scientists.
This month’s Research Snapshot focuses on a project conducted at Murdoch University that measured immune responses to four different Streptococcus suis vaccine preparations, using an Australian cps2 ST25 strain of the bacterium.
Our Member Focus this edition is on Dr Taya Clarke, from Westpork Pty Ltd. Please read on for further information.
As alluded to above, the APSA conference (APRIL was co-Platinum sponsor) was held this year in hybrid format, with ~ 75 attendees being able to be present in Brisbane for the event. The meeting attracted less abstracts and a smaller audience than in previous years, but nevertheless and given the current circumstances, it was very pleasing to see the attendance and high level of participation, and appreciate the exchange of ideas and scientific and practical information that occurred. The session on the final morning contained a number of papers related to the ‘single diet’ feeding concept supported in part by APRIL, which attracted considerable discussion.
A total of 15 abstracts from APRIL co-funded projects will soon be published in animal-science proceedings.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year, and extend my thanks and appreciation to Dr Charles Rikard-Bell and Geoff Crook from APRIL, Dr Tony Peacock (Chair) and fellow Directors, to Australian Pork Limited, and to everyone involved in APRIL projects and interactions, for support, feedback, and generosity of time during this difficult year.
Finally, thanks are extended to The University of Adelaide and Flinders University for supporting APRIL with their memberships.
Research and Innovation
A request for applications for APRIL Innovation Project and Industry Priority Project proposals closed on 1 October 2021. A total of 10 proposals (six Innovation Projects and four Industry Priority Projects) was received, with the APRIL cash requested, the external cash pledged, and the facility funding (cash) requested being $1,403,004, $948,809 and $745,520, respectively, between 2021/22 and 2023/24. The APRIL Board met on 12 November to consider the recommendations of the Research & Development Advisory Committee for project support, and five projects were supported subject to a range of modifications and changes. The projects will be highlighted in the next Newsletter.
One of APRIL’s strategic imperatives is to seek leverage of its funds against additional investment in priority research, education and training, and commercialisation programs to achieve necessary scale for key industry outcomes. In this regard, APRIL will continue its Kickstart program for the 2021/22 financial year, which is aimed at providing seed funding to individuals/organisations to put together a project submission that seeks significant external funding. More details of the scheme can be found at https://apri.com.au/research/funding-opportunities/, or by contacting Dr John Pluske. Applications are open at any time.
A reminder please that Project Leaders provide a Project Cash Expenditure Report and Project Quarterly Report for the quarters finishing 30 September 2021 and 31 December 2021 (and for some projects, 30 June 2021 and 31 March 2021). If needed, the Project Quarterly Report and Project Cash Expenditure report templates can be found at https://apri.com.au/research/project-reporting/. A growing number of projects have not reported their expenditures; hence, I would strongly encourage Project Leaders and administrators to submit reports for outstanding monies. However, any payments will not proceed without an accompanying Project Quarterly Report.
Education and Training
APRIL is pleased to announce two recent education awards provided to Emma Goode and Katelyn Tomas, from the University of New England and The University of Queensland, respectively. Emma was supported with a postgraduate scholarship to assist with her Masters by Coursework program, which related to potential predictive factors to identify sows that are better able to breed during the challenging summer-autumn seasons. Katelyn Tomas was awarded a postgraduate ‘top-up’ scholarship for 2 years to assist with her PhD studies examining the long-term effects of maternal behaviour and human contact early in life on pigs’ tendency to respond to stress.
To build further upon APRIL’s current research and education and training investments, APRIL is currently seeking applications to support its education and training programs and assist in further building human capacity for the industry. Applications for APRIL’s education awards and Industry Placement Program are now open and close 28 January, 2022. Please visit https://apri.com.au/education-and-training-opportunities/ for more details and application forms.
With a growing number of student projects being completed, the APRIL website has been updated to allow student project reports to be accessed; please visit https://apri.com.au/student-project-reports/.
A key part of this year’s Stakeholders’ Forum was an emphasis on APRIL’s commercialisation activities. Attendees at the Forum heard a general overview provided by Dr Charles Rikard-Bell (APRIL) and then presentations provided by Steve Lydeamore (Anatara Lifesciences), Dr Ricardo Esquerra (Ridley) and Dr Tom Harrison (Apiam Animal Health) on products and technologies in the Australasian pork industry.
In this context, Dr Rikard-Bell commented that the APRIL pipeline has some promising technology and some excellent research partners and commercial proposals to validate technologies prior to commercialisation and adoption. Potential opportunities exist for the industry with (i) real-time, in-field water quality assessment, (ii) rapid measurement techniques to detect the presence and concentration of boar taint compounds at processing, and (iii) a ‘lab on a chip’ for pen-side assessments of welfare and pain. Please contact Dr Rikard-Bell if you would like any further information.
This harvest, APRIL will continue an initiative started during the 2020/21 harvest and provide periodic Early Harvest Reports to key customers. AusScan Online collates a significant number of scans from different regions across Australia every month. The report aids nutritionists in providing a rapid assessment of the new season’s energy values for each grain type across different regions in Australia for different animals. To this end, we anticipate the start of in vivo studies at The University of Melbourne (significantly delayed due to Covid-19) to upgrade the pig digestible energy calibrations in AusScan Online.
A Final Report has been received from Murdoch University [Dr Mark O’Dea (now at Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, WA) and Associate Professor Sam Abraham] that measured immune responses to four different Streptococcus suis vaccine preparations, using an Australian cps2 ST25 strain.
Bacterial cultures of a cps2 ST25 S. suis strain were prepared at concentrations of 1×109 colony forming units (cfu)/ml and 1×1010 cfu/ml, and inactivated using either (i) formalin, (ii) binary ethylenimine (BEI), (iii) lysozyme/detergent or (iv) heat treatment (60°C for one hour, with gentle agitation). Eight weaner pigs were assigned to each vaccine group, including a negative control group, and received 1 ml of vaccine preparation intra-muscularly on days zero and 14 after weaning. Blood was collected from each pig on days 0, 7, 14, 21 and 28 for measurement of serological response, and pigs were weighed on days 0, 7, 14 and 21. Analysis of total immunoglobulin, IgM, IgG1 and IgG2 was performed using ELISA.
The heat-inactivated vaccine using a dose of 1×1010 cfu/ml produced the most robust immune response as measured by total Ig and IgG1. Using sample to positive ratio as a proxy of antibody level, mean optical density (OD) levels were higher than all other treatment groups. Higher mean OD sample/positive ratio for heat-inactivated vaccine using a dose of 1×1010 cfu/ml was seen for the IgG1 subtype, with a significant (P<0.05) difference when compared to lysozyme and BEI at 1×109 cfu/ml and BEI at 1×1010 cfu/ml. The IgG2 sample/positive ratio was also higher overall for heat-inactivated vaccine at 1×1010 cfu/ml. However, a significant (P<0.05) difference was only seen between this and BEI at 1×109 cfu/ml. There were no statistically significant differences when assessing IgM.
Titration of serum samples from day 0 and day 35 was performed for all 1×1010 cfu/ml vaccine preparations. The heat treatment vaccine showed a significant increase in total Ig measured, with a four-fold increase in antibody titre over this period, and both the heat treatment and formalin vaccines showed ≥4-fold titre increases in IgG1 measured.
The researchers concluded that a S. suis heat-treated vaccine preparation could elicit IgG antibody responses that were superior to other preparations tested, including the currently and commercially used formalin inactivation method. The use of heat inactivation is a potentially simple and cheap method for bacterin production, and would likely be a feasible option for large scale vaccine production following field trials to assess protective efficacy.
Check the APRIL website, https://apri.com.au/research/project-reports/, for more details on this project, as well as other Project Summaries and Final Reports.
Member Focus – Dr Taya Clarke (Westpork Pty Ltd.)
Taya started her journey working with animals at a young age, with her parents active in wildlife conservation and rehabilitation. She studied Animal Science at The University of Western Australia, completing an Honours project in 2008 working with sheep.
Taya then went overseas for 2 years, living and working in Oxford, UK at the Food Animal Initiative, working in poultry research under Dr Marion Stamp-Dawkins. Upon arriving back in Australia, Taya undertook a PhD at Murdoch University, investigating sow welfare and behaviour. Throughout her studies, Taya worked with the RSPCA Australia as an Approved Farming Scheme assessor, visiting many different farming schemes all over Australia. This is where she learned that good welfare comes in many different forms. When her PhD was completed, she began a role as Technical Manager with Westpork in 2015. In the 6 years since beginning with Westpork, Taya’s role has evolved to manage all facets of animal welfare, APIQ accreditation, and she also oversees all research trials conducted on Westpork farms.
Outside of her role at Westpork, Taya sits on a number of committees, including the APRIL R&D Committee, Pork Innovation WA, Pork Industry Training WA, DPIRD Biosecurity Consultative Committee and APSA. Although there isn’t much time to conduct her own research, Taya believes in keeping informed about new science, and is always on the lookout for innovation that can be adapted to on-farm practice.
Westpork is a founding member of APRIL, and Taya believes it is integral for research to be industry supported so that it stays relevant and drives improvement for the Australian industry. The collaborative nature of Australian pig research is also integral to keeping research innovative.
Employment Opportunity – APRIL Early Career Scientist
APRIL is seeking an Early Career Scientist who has completed (or nearly completed) their doctorate studies having less than 5 years of relevant postdoctoral work experience (or pro-rata equivalent) to work in a multi-disciplinary project across different organisations and cultures, including on-farm work, to address strategies to eliminate tail docking in the Australasian pork industry. The position is offered as a full time, 3-year fixed term contract, and will be available January/February 2022.
Events and Important Dates
- American Society of Animal Science Midwest meeting, 14-16 March 2022; Omaha NE (https://www.asas.org/sections/midwest-section/meetings).
- British Society of Animal Science Annual Conference, 12-14 April 2022; EMCC Nottingham and Online (https://bsas.org.uk/conference).
- 15th International Symposium on Digestive Physiology in Pigs (DPP2022), 17-20 May 2022; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (https://dpp2022.com).
- ZeroZincSummit 2022, 22-23 June 2022; Copenhagen, Denmark (https://www.tilmeld.dk/zerozincsummit2022). The call for Abstracts for this meeting is now open until 31 December 2021.
- International Pig Veterinary Society Congress (IPVS), 21-24 June 2022; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (https://ipvs2022.com/pt/).