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Application of genomics to improve disease resilience and sustainability in pork production

2014 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition – Genomics and Feeding the Future
Agriculture and Agri Food
Genome Centre(s):
Genome Alberta, Genome Prairie
Project Leader(s):
Michael Dyck (University of Alberta), John Harding (University of Saskatchewan), Bob Kemp (PigGen Canada Inc.)
Fiscal Year Project Launched: 
Project Description: 

Pork is big business for Canadian producers, both domestically and internationally. In  Canada, it is the second­most consumed meat. Globally, Canadian pork is exported to  more than 100 countries and it is consumed throughout the world more than any other  source of protein. Managing disease in pork populations is one of the most costly and  difficult challenges for pork producers. In addition to its economic costs, disease likely  contributes to public perceptions of animal products in terms of animal welfare, food  safety and antimicrobial resistance. Genomics offers new ways to fight disease in pigs,  reducing costs for producers, increasing product quality and improving public  perceptions. This will become increasingly important as global demand for animal  proteins rises in concert with growing populations.

Dr. Michael Dyck of the University of Alberta, Dr. John Harding of University of  Saskatchewan and Dr. Bob Kemp of PigGen Canada Inc. are leading a team that will  increase the international competitiveness of the Canadian pork industry and its  contributions to global food safety and security. The team is developing genomics  tools that Canadian genetic companies and breeders can use to select pigs that are  more genetically resilient due to increased tolerance of and/or resistance to multiple  diseases (as opposed to simply resistant to one particular disease). The tools will also  permit producers to manage the nutritional content of pig feed to optimize pig health  such that pigs stay healthier, grow more efficiently and have more successful litters  and reduce the need for antibiotic use in pig production.

The involvement of industry partners in this project means that, within five years of its  end, the rate of genetic improvement and productivity will have an impact on pig  production of more than $137 million, further improving the international  competitiveness of the Canadian pork industry.