Welcome to the first edition of APRIL News for 2022.
First, I would like to welcome a new staff member to APRIL and to the industry, Sophie Ward, who has joined us under an Early Career Scientist Fellowship working on aspects of the CRC-Project (CRC-P), Eliminating pig tail removal to improve welfare and industry sustainability. This is a 3-year project supported by the Australian Government with SunPork Pty Ltd. as the Lead Applicant, and other partners being APRIL, Australian Pork Limited, PIC Australasia Pty Ltd., Rivalea (Australia) Pty Ltd., RSPCA Australia, The University of Melbourne, The University of Queensland, and the University of New England.
An introduction to Sophie can be found later in the Newsletter.
I would like to say thank you to those participants who joined in and contributed to the consultation workshops just before Christmas last year, for the new APRIL Strategic Plan, 2022-2025. There was excellent feedback and comments and aspects of that were incorporated into the (draft) Strategic Plan, 2022-2025, that was presented to the Board for consideration at its meeting on 24 February, 2022. A revised version of the (draft) Strategic Plan will go back to the Board for its 28 April meeting.
A key component of the current Strategic Plan, 2019-2022, were the two Transformational Projects, Enhanced antimicrobial stewardship in the Australian pork industry through targeted reduction of in-feed medications without adverse health consequences, and Elimination of the need for tail-docking in Australasian pork production systems. I thought it worthwhile summarising, in the table below, the projects that have been secured/are currently under consideration, addressing these two priorities.
These projects are collaborative, often multi-disciplinary, and without the support of all of the partners and individuals involved in each project, could not be achieved. The projects exemplify how funds can be successfully leveraged to enable more research and development, and more education and training, to be done for the benefit of the Australasian pork industry.
Further details on each of the successful projects can be found here.
|Project and Funding Body||Total project cash||APRIL cash||Leveraged cash||Total project value (including in-kind)||APRIL cash leverage (on total project value)|
|1||UofM Lead, Stress resilience and emotionality (3 yrs; ARC-Linkage project)||$688,641||$100,000||$588,651||$1,261,778||12.6 : 1|
|2||UQ Lead, Making antimicrobial use redundant (4 yrs; ARC-Linkage project)||$1,931,000||$359,000||$1,572,000||$3,835,000||10.7 : 1|
|3||SP Lead, Rearing pigs with intact tails (3 yrs, CRC-Project)||$4,531,116||$750,000||$3,781,116||$7,876,194||10.5 : 1|
|4||MU Lead, Feed additives and natural bacterial flora to combat antimicrobial resistant bacteria (3 yrs; APRIL)||$925,000||$600,000||$325,000||$1,375,000||2.3 : 1|
|5||MU-Lead, Robotics, genomics and stewardship to combat antimicrobial resistance in pigs (3 yrs; ARC-Linkage – UNDER CONSIDERATION FOR FUNDING)||$1,388,250||$279,999||$1,108,251||$2,214,009||7.9 : 1|
|TOTAL (successful projects, 1-4)||$7,837,116||$1,809,000||$6,028,116||$14,347,972||Average = 7.9 : 1|
|TOTAL (all projects, 1-5)||$9,225,366||$2,088,999||$7,136,367||$16,561,981||Average = 7.9 : 1|
UofM: The University of Melbourne; UQ; The University of Queensland; MU: Murdoch University; SP: SunPork P/L.
This month’s Research Snapshot focuses on a project conducted through The University of Queensland that explored technologies and methodologies related to bio-upgrading of piggery biogas by growing algae, for potential value-add end uses. Please read on for further information.
In news from New Zealand and NZ Pork, Brent Kleiss has been named as the new Chief Executive of NZ Pork following David Baines’ recent resignation. Brent first joined NZ Pork in July 2021 as Policy Manager and officially moves into the role on May 2. APRIL thanks David for his valuable contributions during his tenure at NZ Pork, especially in regard to sharing of information concerning the current discussions about a new Draft Code of Welfare for Pigs. In this regard, NAWAC (National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee) has been working on a new draft code following a court ruling in 2020. A component of the NAWAC Pigs Subcommittee’s work plan was to undertake a Five Domains Assessment of animal welfare impacts and enhancements in relation to farrowing and mating system scenarios. NZ Pork sought an independent expert peer review of NAWAC’s report, and with APRIL’s support, commissioned a peer review by experts from the Animal Welfare Science Centre at The University of Melbourne and the Centre for Animal Science, The University of Queensland. More details on that report will be forthcoming.
Additionally, NZ Pork’s own modelling of cost impacts to the average New Zealand pig farmer shows that anticipated changes to farrowing crates and mating stalls without support measures impose a significant, if not completely unmanageable, barrier to a sustainable industry, with mooted changes to more space for growing pigs having an even greater impact. NZ Pork is committed to improving animal welfare where supported by science. Pending the outcomes of the upcoming consultation process on the pigs’ welfare code (dates yet to be confirmed), NZ Pork is poised to invest in research on farrowing and mating systems that will comply with any finalised changes to minimum standards.
Our Member Focus this edition is on Mr Robert Parkes, from Ridley Agriproducts Pty Ltd.
A new section to the Newsletter is called Papers and Abstracts, which will highlight recently published articles supported by APRIL. In this Newsletter, we take a brief look at papers from the Australasian Pig Science Association (APSA) meeting, 2021, relating to the single-diet feeding concept.
Finally, we would welcome receiving APRIL-related information and upcoming events from our Members for possible inclusion in the Newsletter [subject to space (preferred length is 100-150 words) and content], as we see this as an important communication forum between Members also. Please note though that news of APRIL activities has priority, and items of an advertorial nature are not permitted
Dr John Pluske
CEO and Chief Scientist
Research and Innovation
A request for applications for APRIL Innovation Project and Industry Priority Project proposals closed in October 2021, with six Innovation Project and four Industry Priority Project applications received. Following its meeting on 24 February 2022, the Board supported the recommendations from the R&D Advisory Committee (meeting held October 2021) and has supported the following projects:
- Heating up the house: Evaluating the effect of novel monitoring and heating systems on the productivity, welfare and economics of farrowing houses [Dr Maria Jorquera-Chavez, Rivalea (Australia) Pty Ltd.].
- Use of progesterone and GM-CSF to improve the fertility of extended semen (A/Prof Mark Nottle, The University of Adelaide).
Industry Priority Projects
- How low CAN you go?: Optimising the use of calcium nitrate (CAN) in gestating sow diets to reduce piglet birthweight variation and improve their lifetime performance [Dr Jessica Craig, Rivalea (Australia) Pty Ltd.].
- Literature Review: Identifying knowledge gaps and strategies to improve progeny uniformity of pigs [Dr Fan Liu, Rivalea (Australia) Pty Ltd.].
Congratulations to all those involved in the successful projects, and we look forward to seeing the outcomes from the projects and the benefits to the Australasian pork industry.
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 continues its Kickstart program for the 2022/23 financial year, which is aimed at providing seed funding to individuals/organisations to put together a project submission that seeks significant external funding, such as the projects shown in the previous table.
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.
As always, a reminder please that Project Leaders provide a Project Cash Expenditure Report and Project Quarterly Report for the quarters finishing 30 September 2021, 31 December 2021 and 31 March 2022 (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 a number of new education and training awards, as a result of a call for applications between November 2021 and January 2022, as follows:
Undergraduate/Post Graduate/DVM awardees:
- Kaitlin Beltakis, The University of Adelaide; Honours Award investigating the use of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) to improve the fertility of extended boar semen and increase embryo development (Supervisors: A/Prof Mark Nottle and Dr Nicole McPherson).
- Rutu Acharya, The University of Melbourne; support for training in bioinformatics and programming associated with a PhD program related to identifying potential predictors of tail biting outbreaks in pigs with intact tails housed under commercial conditions (Supervisors: Dr Lauren Hemsworth, Professors Paul Hemsworth and Alan Tilbrook).
- Soraya Haynes, Murdoch University; Post-Graduate ‘Top-Up’ for a PhD related to the assessment of the efficacy of disinfectants currently used in the Australian pork industry (Supervisors: Associate Professor Sam Abraham, Drs Mark O’Dea, Tim Hyndman and Rebecca Abraham).
- Sharif Islam, University of New England; Post-Graduate ‘Top-Up’ for a PhD investigating the level of inbreeding and associated genomic regions for inbreeding depression in pigs (Supervisor: Professor Susanne Hermesch).
- Bianca Hatze, The University of Sydney; DVM award for a project exploring whether the blood concentration of urocanic acid isoforms in domesticated pigs (Sus domesticus) varies according to season (Supervisors: Associate Professor Roslyn Bathgate and Professor Claire Wade).
Industry Placement Program (IPP) awardees:
- Dr Max Muller, The University of Queensland (in association with APRIL, SunPork and Ridley).
- Dr Nandi van Wyk (Apiam Animal Health/Portec Pty Ltd.).
APRIL wishes everyone the best with their respective awards, and looks forward to seeing the outcomes from the projects or contributions to the Australasian pork industry through the Industry Placement Program.
Call for Commercialisation Project Research Applications
Reducing variation in lifetime performance: Collection, storage and distribution of grain samples for in vivo and in vitro experiments, assessment of related grain chemical and physical characteristics, and management of the research data produced from experiments to improve the AusScan Online NIR calibrations.
Data collected from the Premium Grains for Livestock Project, CRC for an Internationally Competitive Pork Industry projects and CRC for High Integrity Australian Pork projects, and a current APRIL project, have been used to develop the AusScan Online near infrared spectroscopy (NIR) calibrations to predict the nutritional value of grains for livestock and various chemical and physical grain characteristics important to livestock production.
APRIL manages the license for the commercial use of the AusScan Online calibrations and is responsible for ongoing research and the maintenance and improvement of calibrations. APRIL conducted research upgrading the poultry AME calibrations in 2018, and in 2021, The University of Melbourne was awarded a research project from APRIL in 2021 to upgrade the pig DE calibrations.
APRIL is inviting Commercialisation Project applications from an experienced and qualified team (or teams) with access to suitable facilities to provide the required specialisations to undertake this project. The research project will be for a 3-year period, 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2025.
The APRIL Commercialisation Project scheme requires a minimum level of co-investment of 20% cash (of the total project cost).
The project application form and accompanying information document and Guidelines are available from the APRIL website: https://apri.com.au/research/funding-opportunities/.
Project applications open on 4 April 2022 and close at 5 pm on 20 May 2022.
For further information or inquiries, please contact Dr Charles Rikard-Bell, Manager, Commercialisation and Research Impact (0439 513 723).
APRIL continues to provide Early Harvest Reports to key customers and nutritionists. 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. The AusScan Online Early Harvest Report for scans conducted in February 2022 can be found in this month’s edition of the Australian Pork Newspaper.
On 24 December 2021, APRIL received confirmation from the TNA (transnational access) program of the PIGWEB project (https://www.pigweb.eu; funded under the EU Horizon 2020 program) that a Stage 1 pre-proposal, Assessment of a commercially-viable enrichment ‘block’ for group-housed gestating sows (co-supported by Ridley), was successful, with an invitation to proceed to a Stage 2 application. The Stage 2 application will be submitted this month.
There is another round of this program commencing September 2022, hence if anyone is interested in a research project in partnership with APRIL to access facilities from selected EU countries, ranging from feed manufacturing to metabolism/physiology to production units, please make contact, and we can discuss possible options. Most of the facilities in the program are associated with a university or research institute.
At its February 2022 meeting, the Board supported a new Commercialisation Project, Easing the weaning transition: pellet form and size to reduce the post-weaning growth check, with SunPork as the Lead Party and supported by Ridley. The project builds on a previously-funded APRIL Industry Priority Project, Easing the weaning transition: large piglets from large pellets, showing piglets had a greater level of interaction with larger pellets through object play, and more eating observations with large semi-moist extruded creep (SMEC). The project will be completed in September this year.
APRIL continues to build a relationship with growAG, managed by AgriFutures, seeking potential external investment into Commercialisation Projects and activities. growAG is a collaboration between the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) and Australia’s 15 Research & Development Corporations (RDCs), aimed at connecting investors, corporates, start-ups, researchers, industry, government and universities from Australia and around the world to locate information and opportunities to deliver innovation back to the farm and the food supply chain.
Please visit https://www.growag.com for further information.
Next month, APRIL will launch its Product Development Scheme, a new initiative that can provide up to 50% of the costs of performing studies to assess new products (including services or technologies) in a commercial environment for the benefit of the Australasian pork industry. More information will be forthcoming at that time, or please feel free to contact Dr Charles Rikard-Bell, Manager, Commercialisation and Research Impact (0439 513 723), for information.
A Final Report has been received from The University of Queensland [Associate Professor Paul Jensen; inputs from the University of Southern Queensland (Dr Stephan Tait) and Murdoch University (Professor Navid Moheimani)] titled Bio-upgrading piggery biogas by growing algae, for value-add end uses (4C-119).
The core goal of the technologies studied in the project was to remove H2S and CO2 from piggery biogas to improve the safety of piggery biogas and to increase CH4 concentrations. The project had two parts, with aims related to (A), the development of PPB (purple phototrophic bacteria) technology to remove H2S from biogas, being (i) investigate a fully autotrophic process for sulphide removal via PPB to estimate sulphide removal rates as well as biomass yield, (ii) demonstrate PPB-based sulphide removal in a continuous process and identify important design parameters for a full-scale process, and (iii) assess the viability of a continuous PPB-based sulphide removal process, including comparison to existing desulfurization technologies.
Aims related to (B), the development of algae technology to remove CO2 from biogas, were to (i) integrate effluent treatment with biogas purification using a saline microalga, (ii) determine the growth characteristics, biomass composition and maximum quantum yields marine microalga Tetraselmis suecica using synthetic biogas as a source of CO2, and ADPE (anaerobically digested piggery effluent) as a source of nutrients, (iii) explore the impact of pH and the resulting CO2 partial pressure on microalgae growth, and (iv) assess the effect of CH4 in biogas on microalgal cultivation of Tetraselmis sp.
For (A), the project was successful at proof-of-concept using PPB to treat a gas mixture containing 2,000 ppm H2S, 30% CO2 and ~70% CH4 in a continuous process. The process achieved an average H2S removal of 69-77% in the continuous process, with a maximum removal of 90%. The process can run chemical-free and can integrate with existing anaerobic pond technologies. The removal efficiencies achieved in the project reduced H2S to levels suitable for on-farm uses such as boilers, CHP and microturbines, and therefore represent an alternative to conventional iron sponge scrubbers for on farm use. However, multi-stage rectors or a secondary treatment step would be required to achieve complete H2S removal required for transport fuel uses and/or export into natural gas grids.
However, the cost of the PPB process was estimated at approximately $85 kg S-1; prohibitively high, with the major cost being the electricity used to irradiate the reactor overnight; these irradiation costs would need to be eliminated for PPB desulphurization to be viable. The PPB biomass generated in the process was high in protein and is a potential high-value by-product, but production rates were very low and not sufficient to generate any significant revenue to offset the high treatment cost.
In terms of part (B), the algal work, the project was successful at proof-of-concept using T. suecica to remove CO2 and waste nutrients in a batch biogas-effluent treatment process. The process achieved a CO2removal up to 94%. When applied to piggery biogas, the treated biogas could have a CH4 content of 94 to 98%, making the upgraded gas suitable for use as a transport fuel (after compression) or to export biogas into centralised natural gas grids. Nutrients were removed from the wastewater during treatment; however, due to the high nutrient content of piggery wastewater, only a small portion of the available waste nutrients (~6% N and ~1% P) appear required to support sequestration of all CO2 in the piggery biogas. No inhibitory effects were seen from the CH4 content of the synthetic biogas. The next stage of development could be to explore a continuous process, possibly at pilot stage, to clarify the biomass yields, carbon uptakes rates, harvesting costs and allow a more detailed assessment of the viability of biogas-based microalgae cultivation systems.
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 – Mr Robert Parkes (Ridley Agriproducts Pty Ltd.)
The first animal I can recall seeing was a pig. I grew up on a piggery in north western NSW, and by the age of 11 was entrusted with looking after the piggery over a weekend when my parents were away. I had really wonderful animal husbandry mentors in my grandmother and father, and continue to apply those skills on my own farm (no longer pigs, however). I spent all my spare time on our piggery until the age of 18 when my parents closed the piggery.
I continued my affinity with the pig industry throughout my undergraduate studies at the University of New England and was fortunate to receive a PRDC (Pig Research & Development Corporation, the predecessor to APL) undergraduate award. The award enabled me to complete my Honours project at a local piggery investigating ‘The effect of diversional stimuli, “Toys”, on the aggressive behaviour of weaner and grower pigs’. At the completion of my undergraduate studies, I completed post-graduate studies in business management and marketing and was fortunate to join Ridley. In my current role I manage our monogastric nutrition team, technical customer support and research and innovation.
In my almost 30 years with Ridley, I have worked in nutrition technical selling roles, technical management roles, quality management and general and business management. Across my career I have been aligned with the pig industry. I have been fortunate to sit on pig industry advisory committees in Victoria, the PRDC R&D committee, Pork CRC II R&D committee and also the APRIL R&D Advisory Committee. With a focus on animal feeding, I have filled many industry roles including President of the Stockfeed Manufacturers Council of Australia (SFMCA), Vice Chairman of the Grain Trade Australia (GTA) Board and Chairman of the GTA Standards Committee.
Ridley is a founding member of APRIL, and I believe bringing research breakthroughs to market will help drive improvement for the Australian industry. I would have loved to have had a ‘block thrown into the mix’ when I was completing my Honours project!
Introducing: Sophie Ward
Sophie developed an interest in agriculture after reading about Dr Temple Grandin, the American animal scientist that revolutionised animal handling and husbandry methods on farms. Inspired by the work conducted by Dr. Grandin, Sophie found herself drawn towards the way animals are treated in livestock industry, particularly pigs and poultry. This led her to study Animal Science at The University of Adelaide, taking part in a hobby group (Pig Club) that allows students to interact and care for pigs. With little knowledge of pigs, Sophie found it so interesting learning how funny and intelligent these animals could be, teaching her ‘pet’ pig to sit, spin and follow her hand. With financial support from the Australasian Pork Research Institute (APRIL), Sophie was able to pursue an Honours project with supervisors A/Prof. Roy Kirkwood and Dr. Kate Plush, focusing on farrowing assistance to sows in later parities.
Then, with the financial support of Australian Pork Limited, Sophie was fortunate to continue research with her supervisors, conducting a PhD on the management of sows and their litter around the periparturient period. Over this candidature, Sophie had the opportunity to work with Professor Sanjay Garg and his team at the Pharmaceutical Innovation and Development Group (PIDG), University of South Australia, to develop a non-injectable method for inducing sows to farrow over working hours. She submitted her PhD in February, 2022.
Post candidature, Sophie is now part of the team at APRIL, focusing on how precision livestock technologies can help rear pigs with intact tails as part of her Early Career Science Fellowship, funded through a successful CRC-Project obtained in 2021.
Papers and Abstracts
The 18th Australasian Pig Science Association (APSA) meeting held in Brisbane in November 2021, with APRIL as Principal Co-Sponsor with APL, saw 15 abstracts from APRIL co-funded projects presented at the meeting. Two papers funded in part by APRIL were titled, “The correct single diet can replace phase-feeding in grower-finisher pigs without compromising growth performance and carcase quality”(Hewitt, R.J.E., Sampaio, M.O., Corso, A.C., Tritton, S.M. and D’Souza, D.N.), and “Commercial evaluation of a phase feeding strategy compared to a single diet strategy for grower-finisher pigs” (Ford, E.M., Liu, F., Brewster, C.J. and Henman, D.J.). Along with another paper on the same subject (“Feeding a single diet throughout the grower-finisher period produces comparative results to a phase-feeding program”; Zemetis et al.), considerable discussion occurred at the meeting in relation to the topic and the practical implications of the findings.
All papers reported that feeding a specifically formulated single diet during the grow-finish phase, compared to a phase-feeding program, had no overall deleterious impacts on production or carcase quality. These results agree with the previous work of Dr Karen Moore presented at APSA in 2019 (APRIL project A3A-103: Feeding a single diet to pigs in the grower/finisher stage to reduce feed costs and improve feed efficiency). In some instances, there were cost benefits associated with the single-diet feeding strategy. However, as would be anticipated, responses were different, or of a different magnitude, depending on the type of production and close-out practices, genotype and sex of pigs used, and feeding a single diet during the grow-finish phase may not be applicable under all circumstances.
These papers (and indeed all of the conference papers) can be accessed via https://www.apsa.asn.au/product/2021-manipulating-pig-production-xviii/
Events and Important Dates
- British Society of Animal Science Annual Conference, 12-14 April 2022; EMCC Nottingham and Online (https://bsas.org.uk/conference).
- 2022 Poultry Information Exchange (PIX) and Australasian Milling Conference (AMC), 15-17 May 2022; Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (https://pixamc.com.au).
- 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).
- International Pig Veterinary Society Congress (IPVS), 21-24 June 2022; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (https://ipvs2022.com/pt/).
- ASAS-CSAS Annual Meeting, 26-30 June 2022; Oklahoma City, OK, USA (https://www.asas.org/meetings/annual-2022).
- 12th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, 3-8 July 2022; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (https://wcgalp.com).
- 34th Australian Association of Animal Sciences (AAAS) Conference, 5-7 July 2022; Cairns, Queensland, Australia (https://www.animalscienceconference2022.com.au).
- 19th Asian-Australasian Association of Animal Production (AAAP) Animal Science Congress, 23-26 August 2022; Jeju Island, Korea (http://www.aaap2022.org).
- 73rd Annual Meeting of the European Association of Animal Production (EAAP), 5-9 September 2022; Porto, Portugal (https://www.eaap2022.org).