Researchers have found some pigs are genetically predisposed to use phosphorus more efficiently than others, a University of Manitoba researcher told the Manitoba Swine Seminar last week.
Laurie Connor, head of the university’s animal science department, said it’s still unknown how these pigs differ genetically than others, but the differences are potentially important.
Connor emphasized genetic research is key to improving livestock production efficiency.
Connor uses the example of nutrients and feedstuff to illustrate the importance of genetic differences in pigs. “They are finding out things for example at the molecular level, at the genome level, that there are some pigs that actually use phosphorus more efficiently, so they don’t even need as much available phosphate in their rations. Those are the sort of things we formulate for pigs and assume they all use phosphorus in the same way.
“Understanding that on the molecular level you may have some differences, down the road we can work towards that at the level of the genome. You can genetically transfer to make sure the pigs that you are using use nutrients more efficiently,” said Connor.
Connor noted animals’ immune systems are also genetically regulated, with some animals better able to defend themselves against disease. Selecting animals that are genetically able to respond based on the immune system would decrease production costs and increase production efficiency.
Currently there is no swine genetic research being done in Manitoba. However, researchers at the University of Manitoba are looking at nursery pigs’ immune systems.
The research is looking at the types of nutrients nursery pigs are consuming and the effects on their immune system.
“You tend to want to use some medicated feed to adjust the animals to that environment and so they don’t succumb to some disease, but of course you don’t want to use antibiotics in the feed; we only want to use it if the animal is sick. If we can actually stimulate the animal to develop their own immune system in that environment that would be tremendous,” said Connor.