Welcome to the final edition of APRIL News for 2022
First, I would sincerely like to thank all of the presenters [David Henman (Rivalea (Australia) Pty Ltd.), Dr Valeria Torok (SARDI), Dr Megan Lucas (The University of Melbourne), Professor Sam Abraham (Murdoch University), Dr Rebecca Athorn (Australian Pork Limited), Dr Maria Jorquera-Chavez (Rivalea (Australia) Pty Ltd.), Dr Mathew Lucas (Davies Collison Cave), Dr Jamie Flynn (HONE), Dr Kate Plush and Dr Darryl D’Souza (SunPork Solutions), Dr Sophie Ward and Dr Charles Rikard-Bell (APRIL), and Rutu Galea and Weicheng Zhao (The University of Melbourne)], as well as the attendees, who participated in APRIL’s Stakeholders’ Forum on 15 November, at the Marriott Hotel in Melbourne.
It was indeed wonderful to be able to hold the Stakeholders’ Forum in face-to-face format again. In excess of 60 people attended the event, and participated in questions and answers and feedback followed by a networking function and dinner. This remains an important annual event for APRIL 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.
Save the Date: the next APRIL Stakeholders’ Forum will be held on 13 November 2023, preceding the 19th biennial conference of the Australasian Pig Science Association (Inc.) (13-16 November, 2023; Sofitel Hotel Brisbane, Australia). Please place this in your calendar.
The Stakeholders’ Forum was preceded by APRIL’s Annual General Meeting. Congratulations are extended to Su McCluskey (Independent Director), and Professor Robert van Barneveld (SunPork Group) and Professor Frank Dunshea (The University of Melbourne) (member-nominated Directors), for being re-elected to the APRIL Board.
Education and Training in this edition features two recently completed DVM projects from students at The University of Sydney, and provides a reminder regarding the call for applications for undergraduate and postgraduate education awards (including applications specifically for the CRC-Project, Eliminating Pig Tail Removal to Improve Welfare and Industry Sustainability), the Industry Placement Program (IPP), and the new Post-Doctoral Fellowship Scheme.
Commercialisation in this edition summarises some of the main talking points from the Stakeholders’ Forum held in November, and includes a reminder for Expressions of Interest in improving an NIR calibration for the rapid assessment of water quality. This builds on work conducted previously through the Pork CRC and APRIL.
This edition’s Research Snapshot focuses on the microbiome aspects of project A1-103, Improving enteric health, understanding impact on gut microbiome and weaner performance through the use of protease enzymes.
Our Member Focus this edition is on Dr Rebecca Athorn, from Australian Pork Limited.
Recent Publications provides an update on publications arising from APRIL-supported studies.
As always, we would welcome receiving APRIL-related information and upcoming events from our stakeholders 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 also.
Finally, 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, Geoff Crook and Dr Sophie Ward from APRIL, Dr Tony Peacock (Chair) and fellow APRIL Directors, to staff at Australian Pork Limited, and to everyone involved in APRIL projects and interactions, for support, feedback, and generosity of time during this year.
Dr John Pluske
CEO and Chief Scientist
Message from the Chair (Dr Tony Peacock)
On behalf of the APRIL Board, I would like to thank everyone associated with APRIL for your hard work, dedication and contributions to the pork industry throughout the year. I think the depth and breadth of APRIL’s research and development, education and training and commercialisation activities, and its impacts on Australian pork production, were amply demonstrated at November’s Stakeholders’ Forum. This was a wonderful expose of the various ways that APRIL is assisting the pork industry to move ahead.
From the Board’s perspective, this year saw us meet five times and for the first time in three years, this included a face-to-face meeting in Melbourne, in November. Dr Gerard Davis left the APRIL Board in February and we thank him for excellent guidance and support, and in September, the Board welcomed Professor Bronwyn Harch as one of the two APL-nominated Directors. The Board discussed and resolved numerous matters during the year, including ongoing support for investment of funds into APRIL’s core operating investments in research and development, education and training, and commercialisation. The operating and governance model of APRIL is contingent upon continued and new stakeholder support, and to that end, I thank all our stakeholders. In this regard, stakeholders must be able to appreciate what APRIL can derive and deliver, which often takes time. In April this year, the Board approved a new Strategic Plan, 2022–2025, that sets APRIL on its next path and strives to ensure stakeholders can continue to support APRIL. I look forward to being able to provide further updates on this matter next year.
Finally, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year, and look forward to reengaging with everyone in 2023.
Research and Innovation
The open and competitive call for Innovation Projects, with up to $750,000 available for this round, closed on 12 December. Applications will now be assessed for eligibility and reviewed, with a meeting of the Research and Development Advisory Committee to be held in early February 2023 and recommendations for funding support to be considered by the Board later that month. A total of 16 applications have been received.
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 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. More details of the scheme can be found at https://apri.com.au/research/funding-opportunities/, or by contacting Dr John Pluske (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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 2022 and 31 December 2022 (and for some projects, 30 June 2022 and 31 March 2022). There is also a number of (very late) outstanding Final Reports. Any final invoices will not be paid without an approved Final Report.
If needed, templates for all reports can be found at: https://apri.com.au/research/project-reporting/.
Education and Training
Call for Education and Training Applications
To build further upon APRIL’s current education and training investments and enhance human capacity for the industry, APRIL is currently seeking applications for the following schemes:
1. Undergraduate and postgraduate education awards (including applications specifically for the CRC-Project, Eliminating Pig Tail Removal to Improve Welfare and Industry Sustainability).
2. Industry Placement Program (IPP).
3. Post-Doctoral Fellowship Scheme.
The main objectives of the new Post-Doctoral Fellowship Scheme are to:
- Attract and retain high calibre early career researchers for the benefit of the pork industry;
- Provide a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the time and support to develop their demonstrated research potential and track record;
- Assist in establishing a Post-Doctoral Fellow with a successful career trajectory.
Further information including Guidelines/Requirements and the Application Form for all of these schemes can be found at: https://apri.com.au/education-and-training-opportunities/
Important dates (all applications):
Applications open: 21 November 2022.
Applications close: 20 January 2023.
Applications will be assessed by the Education Advisory Committee and recommendations for support will be considered by the APRIL Board at its February meeting.
Student Project Reports
We have recently received two DVM project reports from students at The University of Sydney, both supervised by Associate Professor Ros Bathgate.
Bianca Hatze conducted a project titled, Alternate methods to detect and quantify urocanic acid in domesticated pig (Sus domesticus) blood serum, which explored alternate methods to detect and quantify cis- and trans- urocanic acid (UCA), a chemical associated with mechanisms of seasonal reproductive control in sows (and other animals).
Ryan Kristen conducted a project titled, Characterising farrowing and piglet viability using a modified APGAR scoring system to predict piglet performance, which examined the use of an APGAR (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration) scoring system to predict piglet survival and the effects on growth performance.
With more and more student projects being completed, the APRIL website allows student project reports to be accessed, including these two DVM projects; please visit https://apri.com.au/student-project-reports/.
A key part of this year’s Stakeholders’ Forum was again an emphasis on APRIL’s commercialisation activities. Attendees at the Forum heard a general overview provided by Dr Charles Rikard-Bell (APRIL) and then a range of varied and interesting presentations provided by Dr Mathew Lucas (Davies Collison Cave; Getting the most from patents), Dr Jamie Flynn (HONE; miniaturised NIR technology), and Dr Kate Plush (SunPork Solutions; Easing the weaning transition).
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, and (iii) further developments with feed form and enrichment. Please contact Dr Rikard-Bell if you would like any further information.
This harvest, 2022-23, APRIL will continue to provide to industry Early Harvest Reports to nutritionists, feed manufacturers and other stakeholders. 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 and proximate values for each grain type across different regions in Australia for different animals.
The first Early Harvest Report will appear in this January’s edition of Australian Pork Newspaper (APN). Thank you to APN for allowing this important information to be disseminated to the industry.
Expressions of Interest – Improving an NIR Calibration of Rapid Assessment of Water Quality
APRIL is seeking Expressions of Interest from a suitable partner (or partners) to support further development/testing and potential subsequent commercialisation of a miniaturised, hand-held portable NIR technology that can rapidly assess (less than 60 seconds) more than 13 water quality parameters including alkali metals, heavy metals and microbiology.
Water quality and its management represents a significant challenge to the livestock industries. Rapid, on-site testing of water quality will enable timely, cost-effective decision-making. By having access to this simple yet robust technology, livestock producers and technical decision-makers will be better placed to understand their individual water quality challenges and in turn implement appropriate actions to ensure not only optimal animal productivity, health and welfare but also economic benefits and efficiencies.
Furthermore, this technology is translatable across other agricultural and industry sectors where rapid diagnostics are needed.
Further specific information can be found here (https://www.growag.com/listings/commercial-opportunity/rapid-water-quality-assessment-hardware-commercial-opportunity) or by contacting Dr Charles Rikard-Bell, Manager, Commercialisation and Research Impact (0439 513 723; Email: email@example.com).
As part of the Final Report for project A1-103, Improving enteric health, understanding impact on gut microbiome and weaner performance through the use of protease enzymes (Mr Robert Hewitt; SunPork Solutions), extensive microbiome analyses were conducted by Dr Alison Collins (NSW DPI) to explore the impacts of feeding lower protein diets and the addition of a protease on weaner and grower pigs’ faecal microbiome.
For the analyses related to weaner pigs, the pigs were allocated at weaning to a 2 x 2 factorial design of treatments: two diets (Control v Low Protein) +/- protease addition to the diet (150 g/kg of diet). Pooled-pen faecal samples were collected at 14 days after weaning and then again at 28 days after weaning. The DNA was extracted from the pooled-pen faecal samples using established techniques, then purified and quantified before submitting for amplification and sequencing of the V4 region of 16S rRNA gene (Illumina 454 pyrosequencing), which was able to detect all bacteria.
A large array of information was assembled as part of this project. In brief, the major changes observed at both 14 and 28 days after weaning were in the relative abundance of Veillonellaceae, Ruminococcaceae and Lachnospiraceae with the phylum Firmicutes. A reduced relative abundance of Enterobacteriaceae and increased abundance of Prevotellaceae in weaner pigs fed lower protein diets is supported by published results demonstrating the benefits of lower protein diets on reducing numbers of enterotoxigenic E. coli and the incidence of post-weaning diarrhoea. A higher abundance of Prevotellaceae has been reported as a dominant feature of the faecal microbiota in healthy pigs as compared to diarrhoeic pigs after weaning. Non-diarrhoeic pigs after weaning were shown to have a continuous decrease in Lactobacillus and Escherichia and a gradual increase in Prevotellaceae with the transition to solid food after weaning. Prevotellaceae increase rapidly after weaning due to the availability of plant polysaccharides and can metabolise both proteins and carbohydrates to produce acetate and propionate and provide energy for the pig.
Check out 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 Rebecca Athorn (Australian Pork Limited)
I was born and raised in the regional town of Toowoomba in Queensland where I grew up around animals and was an avid horse rider and member of the local pony club. We lived on a farm and for a few years we even had a pet pig called “Petunia”. After I finished high school my love of animals and science led me to study a Bachelor of Applied Science – Animal Studies at The University of Queensland (Gatton Campus) where in the final year of my degree I was awarded a scholarship from Pork Queensland, where one of the requirements of the award was to undertake work experience at a commercial piggery.
I undertook my placement at the UQ Gatton Campus Piggery and enjoyed the hands-on nature of the work. This positive experience led me to seek an Honours project with pigs and I was fortunate enough to receive support through a Pork CRC Honours Scholarship to undertake my research project. My Honours research project looked at the inclusion of ractopamine in the finisher diets of pigs with high genetic merit and its effect on performance. Towards the end of my Honours year, the Pork CRC advertised a number of opportunities for PhD scholarships associated with Pork CRC funded projects focussing on pig reproduction. I had developed an affinity for reproductive physiology during my undergrad studies, and a project that was being undertaken by Dr Pieter Langendijk from SARDI piqued my interest. I was again successful in obtaining a Pork CRC Postgraduate Award and so moved to Roseworthy SA to undertake my PhD studies in embryo survival in gilts.
In 2012 after the completion of my studies, I joined the R&I department at Rivalea Australia as a research scientist. My position at Rivalea was one of the first to be supported through the Pork CRC Industry Placement Program. I spent the next 5 ½ years at Rivalea and was involved in many Pork CRC and Australian Pork Limited funded projects (some of which I was the lead investigator on), and was also lucky enough to spend 5 months on secondment at the University of Alberta working on a joint Pork CRC/ University of Alberta project on lactational oestrus. My time at Rivalea has been invaluable to me in my career to date, and being able to conduct meaningful research in commercial facilities (with commercial challenges!) has helped me to understand the opportunities and challenges of research in our industry, and also how to work effectively with research providers in my current role as Manger, Production Innovation at APL to achieve meaningful outcomes for industry.
Working for APL over the past 5 years has exposed me to the many challenges that the Australian pig industry faces and the way in which the research we fund has helped to address and mitigate some of these challenges. It has also shown me that the Australian pork industry is a progressive industry and that we have a great story to tell, not only through the passion of our producers have for what they do but also the positive effect they have on their communities. It is this passion not only from producers but also others associated with this amazing industry, that has kept me dedicated to working in it for the past 15 years (with many more years to come, I hope!).
Through our commitment to research and innovation in, and for, the Australian pig industry, APL commits $1 million dollars each year to APRIL activities, a commitment that follows on from both previous Pork CRCs. Leveraging our funds as a member of APRIL allows APL to expand our research portfolio and invest in a greater number of projects that can positively impact our industry. We also work collaboratively with APRIL to support and build the future capability of our industry. I know the support that I have received from industry throughout my studies and my early career has led me to where I am today and I am proud to be able to give back to the industry that supported and fostered my development.
Recent publications from APRIL-supported projects are as follows:
1. Liu, F., Gilmour, S., Brewster, C. and Henman, D. (2022). Effects of β- hydroxy methyl butyrate (HMB) supplementation on growth performance and carcass traits of finisher pigs between 50-110 kg. In Proceedings of Nutrition Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting. Perth, Australia.
2. Tomas, K., Savaglia, J., Plush, K.J., D’Souza, D.N., Fernandes, J.N., Butler, K.L., Hemsworth, P.H. and Tilbrook, A.J. (2022) Reduced maternal contact increases piglet behavioural stress during husbandry procedures at 3 days of age. Animal Science in Australia 34:cxlii.
3. Vargovic, L., Athorn, R.Z., Hermesch, S. and Bunter, K.L. (2022). Improving sow welfare and outcomes in the farrowing house by identifying early indicators from pre-farrowing assessment. Journal of Animal Science 100:1-13.
4. Zhao, W., Artaiz, O., Iqbal, Y., Le, H.H., DiGiacomo, K., Leury, B.J., Fothergill, L.J., Furness, J.B., Liu, F., Green, M.P., Finger, B.J., Navarro, M., Roura, E., D’Souza, D.M., Dunshea, F.J., Plush, K.J. and Cottrell, J.J. (2022). Heat stress of gilts around farrowing causes oxygen insufficiency in the umbilical cord and reduces piglet survival. Animal 16:100668.
A reminder that any dissemination of information in relation to APRIL-funded projects requires prior approval. An approval form can be fund here: http://apri.com.au/research/project-reporting/.
Events and Important Dates
1. International Conference on Animal Genetics and Breeding, 23-24 January 2023 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands; https://waset.org/animal-genetics-and-breeding-conference-in-january-2023-in-amsterdam).
2. Evoke AG, 21-22 February 2023 (Adelaide Convention Centre, South Australia; https://evokeag.com).
3. American Society of Animal Science Midwest Meeting, 12-15 March 2023 (Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, Madison, Wisconsin (https://www.asas.org/sections/midwest-section/meetings).
4. British Society of Animal Science Conference, 28-30 March 2023 (Birmingham, UK; https://bsas.org.uk/conference-2023).
5. International Conference on Farm Animal Breeding and Genetics, 3-4 April 2023 (Athens, Greece; https://waset.org/farm-animal-breeding-and-genetics-conference-in-april-2023-in-athens).
6. 74th EAAP + WAAP Annual Meeting, 26 August-1 September 2023 (Lyon, France; https://eaap2023.org).