Welcome to the second edition of APRIL News for 2023.
Dr Tony Peacock, APRIL Chair, provides an overview on some recent developments occurring with APRIL and what we can do better for younger people and the pork industry.
Research and Innovation provides an important update to successful project recipients regarding variations to the amount of funding that can be requested in the first year of a project.
APRIL is also pleased to announce the opening of applications for this year’s APRIL Enterprise Award. Please feel free to circulate this Award amongst your colleagues and co-workers, and we look forward to your entries.
Education and Training reviews the latest call for applications for undergraduate and postgraduate awards and the Post-Doctoral Fellowship Scheme, as well as providing information on the National Industry PhD Program.
Commercialisation in this edition overviews the compilation of various information received through AusScan Online during the 2022-2023 harvest in Australia.
This edition’s Research Snapshot focuses on some outcomes from a literature review aimed at identifying knowledge gaps and potential strategies to improve progeny uniformity of pigs, by Dr Fan Liu at Rivalea (Australia) Pty Ltd.
Our Member Focus this edition is on Dr Kate Plush, Science, Technology and Adoption Manager with SunPork Solutions.
Recent Publications provides an update on publications arising from APRIL-supported studies. Please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have other publications that can be mentioned in future newsletters.
Finally, Anatara Lifesciences Ltd. and the University of New England are thanked for their support of APRIL. We also look forward to continuing our relationships with current Members for 2023-24.
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.
Dr John Pluske
Chief Scientist and CEO
Message from the Chair: Dr Tony Peacock
Changing how APRIL works
Right now, the Australasian Pork Research Institute Ltd. (APRIL) operates under a Membership model. It has worked pretty well. But the Board has decided to move forward with an adjustment, to move to a Participant Model instead.
Some people take a real interest in Australian tax law. Some even take a detailed interest in how tax laws relate to Membership or Participation in an organisation.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most readers of the APRIL News don’t fall into the category of people searching the inner workings of the tax code in this regard. So, I’ll give the layperson version. APRIL needs to be a tax-exempt scientific institution to do its job. To keep that status, we can’t provide direct benefits to our Members. This makes it challenging at times to both retain and attract Members.
The APRIL Board thinks we can improve effectiveness and continue to build APRIL by moving to a more collaborative “Participant” Model. We have now received a private Australian Tax Office ruling that confirms this. We will have great scope to tailor Participation levels to suit the needs of organisations that want to work with us.
If you think of our current Members, they are pork processors and producers, the major industry body in APL, technical services companies, advocacy groups, and education and research organisations. What each wants out of APRIL obviously varies between Members. Having greater scope to cater to the individual needs of participating organisations will increase APRIL’s value to those organisations, and attract great participation.
Over the next few months, we will begin a consultation process, with a view to the necessary changes to be in place from July 2024.
Closer ties with Australian Pork Limited
The APRIL and APL Boards are in furious agreement that the two organisations should work as closely together as possible.
There is an APL-APRIL Working Group, with representation from both organisations, currently working closely on the development of a “Green Paper” to clearly set out industry priorities that affect both organisations. The outcomes we want are to avoid any duplication (not that hard) and to increase the clarity of industry priorities so that organisations wanting to work with APRIL and APL really understand what the pork industry thinks is important and how we can work best together (much harder). I’m grateful to the APL and APRIL Directors and staff putting in some hard yards on this development.
Can we do better for students and the industry?
The pork industry does well out of research. Vital to that effort is to continue to support new researchers to enter the industry and to stay in the industry. The industry itself is also hungry for skilled and well-educated people to join.
One immediate thing APRIL can do is more publicity about the opportunities that are available, both in our R&D program but also within our participating organisations. We plan to boost our efforts in this regard as soon as we can.
The APRIL Education Advisory Committee will also take a look at the range of scholarships we offer, how we offer them, and whether we can attract great interest and support. If you have thoughts on how to attract and retain people in the sector, feel free to get in touch.
Research and Innovation
Feedback was received as to whether flexibility exists to increase the initial 25% payment (of the first year’s funds) that APRIL provides to a new project. This is because experimental set-up costs for some projects can exceed 25% of the first year’s funds, leaving a gap in project income. Currently, payment of Project Funds commences (subject to any Special Conditions and upon signing of the Project Details by APRIL) with the payment of 25% of the Project Funds budgeted for the first year of the Project.
Subsequently, the APRIL Board agreed that in all future projects, research providers could request higher up-front project payments by amending the structure of project budgets or by requesting a Special Condition in the research proposal.
Given that projects in the recently approved round of Innovation Projects are still being revised or in the process of being executed, please indicate in the budget if the 25% upfront payment in the first year is to be varied. Naturally, this will impact ensuing payments in the project.
This decision applies to all subsequent funding rounds for R&D projects from APRIL.
A reminder again please that Project Leaders provide a Project Cash Expenditure Report and Project Quarterly Report for the quarters finishing 31 December 2022 and (or) 31 March 2023 and (or) 30 June 2023.
Any final invoices will not be paid without an approved Final Report and a cash expenditure report (or reports). If required, templates for all reports can be found at: https://apri.com.au/research/project-reporting/
APRIL Enterprise Award – Applications Now Open
The APRIL Enterprise Award is open again for 2023.
The APRIL Enterprise Award will be granted to an individual (or individuals) working in the pork industry that can demonstrate innovation and excellence in one or more of the following themes:
- Innovations resulting in new products, new methodologies, new services.
- Potential for accelerated adoption of an innovation to improve performance and efficiency.
- Potential for commercialisation opportunities through APRIL.
The successful Awardee(s) will be selected by an industry-based panel and announced at the APRIL Stakeholders’ Forum in Brisbane on 13 November 2022.
The Award winner(s) will be eligible to be invited to attend this event, and the Award winner(s) will be eligible to receive a cash prize.
Applicants are to be self-nominated and can come from any individual (or individuals) currently working in the pork industry.
The application needs also to address the following selection criteria:
- Appeal to Industry: what is the problem/challenge/opportunity that the innovation addresses?
- Concept/Idea: how was the innovation identified and then developed?
- Feasibility: how is the innovation offering an industry solution? How will the innovation improve and/or accelerate productivity, profitability or industry advancement and competitiveness?
- Value: what benefits will the innovation deliver to pork producers, their business, and potentially the pork industry over the longer term?
How to Apply
Applicants must provide a profile/biography of yourself and your business in 350 words or less and include a high-resolution headshot image.
The application must address a theme, or themes, listed above, and clearly state which theme(s) is/are being addressed. The application must also address the Award criteria (maximum of 300 words per criterion).
Any applications with insufficient detail may be returned with a request for more information to ensure all applicants have an equal chance.
Supporting videos are welcome, but each video (maximum of two) is to be no longer than 5 minutes.
Applications must be received by 5 pm AEDT, 16 October 2023.
Details relating to the purposes of the Award and How to Apply, as well as the Terms& Conditions, can be found on the APRIL website at: https://apri.com.au/news-and-media/
Please direct any queries and send applications to: Dr Charles Rikard-Bell, Manager, Commercialisation and Research Impact (0439 513 723; Email: email@example.com).
Education and Training
To build further upon APRIL’s current education and training investments and enhance human capacity for the pork industry, APRIL is currently seeking applications to support its education and training program and assist in further building human capacity for the pork industry.
A number of different opportunities exist for undergraduate and postgraduate students or potential students, as follows:
- Scholarship Awards for Honours students.
- ‘Top-ups’ for postgraduate research students (PhD, MS/MSc/MPhil) in an APRIL-funded research project (or related).
- Support for DVM/undergraduate Veterinary Science projects.
- Support for MS/MSc/MPhil students, where a research project is an incorporated component of the program of study, in an APRIL-funded research project (or related).
- Part-support for PhD students.
Applications are also sought from potential research students wishing to be involved in a current CRC-Project (CRC-P), Eliminating Pig Tail Removal to Improve Welfare and Industry Sustainability. A number of different opportunities exist for undergraduate and postgraduate students/potential students interested in pursuing this opportunity, as follows:
- Scholarship Awards for Honours students.
- Support for DVM/undergraduate Veterinary Science projects.
- Support for MS/MSc/MPhil students, where a research project is an incorporated component of the program of study.
How to apply?
Completed applications must reach APRIL by the closing date and be lodged electronically to Dr Charles Rikard-Bell at, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applications for all schemes Open: 5 June 2023.
Applications for all schemes Close: 28 July 2023.
National Industry PhD Program
The National Industry PhD Program (https://www.education.gov.au/university-research-commercialisation-package/national-industry-phd-program) will support PhD candidates to undertake industry-focused research projects and be equipped with the knowledge and skills to better translate university research into commercialisation outcomes. The Australian Government’s commitment is to add 1,800 Industry PhDs over 10 years through this program.
The Program consists of two streams:
- Industry Linked PhD stream: This stream is for outstanding PhD candidates to undertake research projects co-designed by university and industry, with opportunities to be embedded in an industry setting and participate in a 12-week training program.
- Industry Researcher PhD stream: This stream is for highly capable industry professionals who are supported by their employers to undertake PhD projects in partnership with a university while retaining industry employment and salary benefits.
Applications for Round 2 2023 are now open and will close on 4 August 2023.
Participating universities are responsible for submitting applications on behalf of researchers, industry partners, PhD candidates and industry employees.
Please contact Dr John Pluske (email@example.com) if you wish to receive more information and (or) are interested in being involved in an application with APRIL.
APRIL Post-Doctoral Fellowship Scheme
The APRIL Post-Doctoral Fellowship Scheme provides an opportunity for further career development for an individual, on a full-time or part-time basis, who has completed their research doctorate (PhD) (or will shortly satisfy the requirements of a PhD), and has less than 3 years of relevant post-doctoral work experience (or pro-rata equivalent).
APRIL will provide to the host institution a maximum of $37,500 per annum (exclusive of GST) for the first 2 years of the 3-yearFellowship, as well as $7,500 per annum (exclusive of GST) for project costs/travel and conference support associated with the Fellowship during the first 2 years (on a pro-rata basis depending on the full-time employment equivalence of the recipient).
The Scheme’s main objectives 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.
How to apply?
Completed applications must reach APRIL by the closing date and be lodged electronically by the applying organisation, including the name and qualifications of the proposed candidate, to the APRIL Chief Scientist/CEO Dr John Pluske (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Applications Open: 5 June 2023.
Applications Close: 28 July 2023.
During harvest, from November to April, APRIL compiles AusScan Online data sourced from mills receiving grains (wheat, barley, sorghum and triticale)across the various grain-growing areas in Australia. This information is distributed to nutritionists and feed millers as a series of Early Harvest Reports, and shows predicted protein and moisture contents, pig ileal and faecal digestible energy (DE) contents (IDE and FDE), the IDE:FDE ratio, the broiler apparent metabolisable energy (AME) content, and the broiler AME index. The broiler AME index gives a relative estimate of the likely feed intake for a broiler diet based on a particular grain.
As part of the Early Harvest Report in April, Dr Charles Rikard-Bell, APRIL Manager, Commercialisation and Research Impact, also produced a series of box and whisker graphs showing the distribution of pig ileal DE content, broiler AME content, and protein content (%)for barley and wheat samples by geographical region as predicted by AusScan Online. The graphs represented in excess of 7,000 scans uploaded to AusScan Online over the harvest season, from November 2022 to April 2023 (inclusive).
Within a particular geographical region, the FDE contents were found to be more variable in barley than in wheat (Figure 1). In contrast, there were subtle regional differences for the faecal DE content of wheat, with the range across all regions being approximately 0.8 MJ/Kg. The 2022-2023 harvest season indicated a wide range of protein percentages for barley and wheat across all regions, and wheat was found to be more variable than barley between regions (Figure 2).
Figure 1. Distribution of pig faecal DE content (MJ/kg) by geographical region for barley and wheat samples as predicted by AusScan Online. Regions are New South Wales (NSW),Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA) and Victoria (VIC). Outliers (coloured dots) are shown external to the box and whisker plot for each region.
Figure 2. Distribution of protein content (%) by geographical region for barley and wheat samples as predicted by AusScan Online. Regions are New South Wales (NSW), Queensland(QLD), South Australia (SA) and Victoria (VIC). Outliers (coloured dots) are shown external to the box and whisker plot for each region.
This information highlights and reinforces the value that AusScan Online can bring in quantitatively portraying the variation in energy and nutrient content of various grains fed to pigs. These data can also be reproduced for broilers.
As such, AusScan Online is also particularly valuable for picking up ‘outliers’ that fall outside of the standard range and further underscore the importance of scanning grains for these key dietary components. Please contact Dr Charles Rikard-Bell for any further information (email@example.com).
APRIL has recently approved a Final Report for a commissioned Literature Review, Identifying knowledge gaps and strategies to improve progeny uniformity of pigs. There view, prepared by Dr Fan Liu of Rivalea (Australia) Pty Ltd., was directed at an increase in understanding of the myriad factors contributing to carcass weight and fatness variation within a production batch, with the ultimate aim of identifying strategies that may improve the uniformity of carcass weight and backfat of pigs.
The Literature Review discussed the aetiology of causes of variation in tissue deposition rate within a progeny batch, covering together physiological and nutritional factors during the pre-mating, prenatal, pre-weaning and post-weaning phases. There view identified knowledge gaps in some specific aspects of carcass variation.The review also aimed to provide background information for developing effective strategies to improve carcass uniformity, with the effectiveness of these being proposed for the development of a potential future research program in this area.
Potential research areas included, for example, a comparison of uteroplacental haemodynamics in small vs large foetusesin order to understand the role of placental blood flow in foetal development,and validation of the relationship between protein loss in lactation, the subsequent remating interval and within-litter birth weight variation in modern-day sows.
The Project Summary of this Literature Review, along with other Project Summaries and Final Reports projects, is available on the APRIL website (https://apri.com.au/research/project-reports/). Please contact me directly if you would like to receive a copy of this review.
Member Focus – Dr Kate Plush (SunPork Solutions)
When faced with the choice of a full-time position in an animal shelter, or tackling a postgraduate qualification, the choice was easy. I get bored quickly, and so the challenge of exploring neonatal development and survivability as part of a PhD program funded by the Sheep CRC was my first step towards a research career. After four years of monitoring lamb behaviour, in the middle of winter, when the fleece of ewes was covered in frost, the inside of a farrowing house looked like an attractive option.
I was fortunate enough to be awarded a postgraduate position funded by the CRC for High Integrity Australian Pork through The University of Adelaide, and with support and mentoring from both academic and industry experts, I transitioned into a scientific role in pig reproductive physiology and welfare.
Being part of the industry-led move away from gestating sow stalls is something I will never forget, and lessons learned from this experience still influence the way in which I tackle scientific questions and sustain my ambition with regards to opportunities for industry change.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my career has been incorporating scientific outcomes into staff training to achieve real productivity improvement or practice change.
In my current role as Science, Technology and Adoption Manager within the Technical Services team at the SunPork Group, I am given the opportunity to do this every day. All the APRIL projects I am involved in have translatable, practical outcomes across the pork value chain.
At SunPork, we are proud to lead the CRC-P Tails project, an international first to use hard data to define risk factors, and the complex relationship that exists between them, that lead to tail biting outbreaks. The eventual goal of this project is to enable producers to make informed decisions to move away from tail docking, having obvious animal welfare implications.
This CRC-P is generously supported by APRIL through the Transformational Projects scheme, and I look forward to working towards further research opportunities that this scheme will facilitate.
Recent publications from APRIL/Pork CRC-supported projects are as follows:
1. Pluske, J.R.,Murphy, K.J. and Dunshea, F.R. (2022). Pork nutritional value and relationships with human health. In Reference Module in Food Science: Elsevier (https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-323-85125-1.00103-4).
2. Sharif-Islam, M., Henryon, M., van der Werf, J.H.J., Sørensen, A.C., Chu,T.T., Wood, B. and Hermesch, S. (2023). A comparison between the use of pedigree or genomic relationship matrices to control inbreeding in optimum-contribution selection. In Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics.
3. Van Kerschaver, C., Turpin, D.L., Michiels, J. andPluske, J.R. (2023). Reducing weaning stress in piglets by pre-weaning socialization and gradual separation from the sow: A review. Animals 13: 1644.https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13101644.
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/.
Conferences, Events, Important Dates
1. Animal Breeding at the Crossroads, 25th AAABG Conference, 26-28 July2023 (Perth, Western Australia; https://aaabgconference.com.au/).
2. Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition, 27-28 July 2023 (Gold Coast, QLD; https://www.raan.com.au).
3. ICoMST2023, 20-25 August 2023 (Padova, Italy; https://www.icomst2023.com/).
4. 56thCongress of the International Society for Applied Ethology, 1-5August 2023 (Tallinn, Estonia; https://isae2023.ee).
5. SA Pig Industry Day, 18 August 2023; Barossa Weintal Hotel, Tanunda, South Australia.
6. 74thEAAP + WAAP Annual Meeting, 26 August-1 September 2023 (Lyon, France; https://eaap2023.org).
7. Allen D.Leman Swine Conference, 16-19 September 2023 (MN, USA; https://lemanconference.umn.edu/).
8. Pig Research Summit – THINK Piglet Health & Nutrition 2023, 21-22September 2023 (Copenhagen, Denmark; https://www.tilmeld.dk/thinkpiglet2023/conference).
9. APRIL AGM and Stakeholders’ Forum, 1:00-4:30 pm, 13 November 2023 (Sofitel Brisbane, QLD).
10. Australasian Pig Science Association (APSA), 13-16 November 2023 (Sofitel Brisbane, QLD; www.apsa.asn.au).
11. 3rdAustralian Veterinary Antimicrobial Stewardship Conference (AVAMS23), 20-22November 2023 (Crowne Plaza, Gold Coast; https://avams.au).
12. British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) Conference, 9-11 April 2024 (Belfast, Northern Ireland).
13. Joint AAAS& AAAP Conference, 8-12 July 2024 (Melbourne Convention Centre; https://www.aaap2024.com/).