Pig fertility research featured in new report

Apr 25, 2017

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Recent report highlights major research advances in the ag industry

By Jennifer Jackson

Science is everywhere on the farm – the way producers manage their livestock and operations is constantly being shaped by new, innovative research, according to Retaking the Field, a report released in March.

The Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation (SoAR) – a coalition representing everyone in the ag industry, from producers to scientists – compiled the report, which features the work from 11 American universities, according to the report.

SoAR featured University of Nebraska Lincoln (ULN) researchers’ recent work on improving pig fertility.

In order for farmers to be profitable, sows must produce at least four litters in their lifetime. Some sows may not hit this target before they are culled, according to the report.

Daniel Ciobanu and his team of researchers at ULN found that “sows expressing age at puberty early in life produce more litters during their lifetime,” according to the report. “However, collecting age at puberty is tedious and time consuming and not embraced by industry.”

In an attempt to find the gene responsible for early puberty, researchers used 60,000 DNA markers to examine the genetic material of hundreds of sows. They then analyzed the material with DNA markers to detect markers that would equate to early puberty and high fertility.

“DNA marker technology is fascinating,” he said in the report. “You can predict at day one, with certain probabilities, which sows will have high fertility potential.”

Cobianu and his team plan to test these findings on a larger scale with about 3,000 commercial pigs. The team hopes farmers and breeders will benefit from this research.

The United States Department of Agriculture, and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program funded this ULN project as well as all other research highlighted in the report.

The full report is on the SoAR website.