National Pig Centre opens

Precision nutrition and 24-hour monitoring will enable scientists to provide new insights for the pig industry, as we open the National Pig Centre today.

The National Pig Centre will be a leading research facility for improving the welfare of pigs and the sustainability of the British pig industry

A group of pigs pass through a gate. November 2019

Scientists from a range of disciplines will use new state-of-the-art facilities to help improve the sustainability and efficiency of pig production.

The facilities make Yorkshire one of the best places in Europe for pig research.

The National Pig Centre will be a leading research facility for pig nutrition, behaviour, health and production system research – all themes identified by the livestock industry as central to improving quality, productivity and future competitiveness.

Professor Lisa Collins, academic lead for the PigSustain project and Head of the School of Biology, said: “This new centre allows us to expand our work to improve the welfare of pigs and the sustainability of the British pig industry.

“Our aim is to lower the environmental footprint of pig farming whilst ensuring that high welfare standards are maintained.”

The new centre will benefit from academic expertise drawn from across a range of disciplines, including nutrition, health, behaviour and fertility, as well as computer vision, engineering, soil and water sciences, data analytics, and atmospheric and climate science.

It has been launched in partnership with CIEL (Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock). CIEL has invested £4.5 million with funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency.

An aerial view of the National Pig Centre. November 2019Facilities at the National Pig Centre 

The investment includes a three-fold increase in the previous capacity of the farm, from 200 to 660 sows, ensuring the research carried out better represents commercial pig farming. Of these, 220 will live outdoors.

The combination of an outdoor sow unit with an indoor system is unique in Europe, enabling direct comparison of the different rearing systems.

Academics will work to identify the key factors contributing to pig farming’s environmental footprint, and attempt to find alternatives that could drive down the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Their findings will help the UK achieve the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the whole of agriculture in England and Wales by 2040.

The indoor facility is equipped with CCTV throughout, permitting round-the-clock observations of individual pig’s behaviour at all stages of production. Researchers will use computer vision to automate data collection from the video footage, so behaviour and nutrition can be monitored at the individual pig level.

Students from across the University will have the opportunity to study at the National Pig Centre as part of their degrees, and some will have chance to contribute to research projects taking place at the farm.

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor, said: “Leeds is proud to be working in a number of ways, at home and internationally, to improve food security and the sustainability of the agricultural sector.

“The National Pig Centre will provide a key national resource for industry to work in partnership with the University to develop innovative and practical solutions that make a positive contribution to the economy, environment and society.

“We are hugely grateful for the strong support we have received from CIEL and Nigel Bertram, and the leading edge work of Helen Miller, our Professor of Animal Bioscience, in developing this facility.”

The facility has also been supported by a generous donation from University of Leeds alumnus Nigel Bertram.

Named in his honour, the Nigel Bertram Visitor Centre features conference and meeting facilities, offices and a live CCTV feed from the indoor pig unit. 

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