Lo­cally pro­duced ge­netic tests save ev­ery­one money

The Woolwich Observer - - VENTURE -

EV­ERY­ONE WANTS CHEAP FOOD – in fact, the re­cently re­leased third an­nual Cana­dian Cen­tre for Food In­tegrity re­search study shows ris­ing food costs are what con­cern con­sumers the most.

The ris­ing cost of food main­tained the top po­si­tion for the third year in a row, at 67 per cent. That’s up five per cent in just one year.

Keep­ing healthy food af­ford­able ranked sec­ond, along with the cost of health care (up nine per cent) and en­ergy (up five per cent).

But cheap food comes at a cost to farm­ers. They’re un­der con­stant pres­sure to pro­duce food for as lit­tle money as pos­si­ble.

So they look for sav­ings wher­ever they can, keep­ing in mind their pro­duc­tion prac­tices must pass the sniff test with so­ci­ety. It’s fine to save money, but not at the ex­pense of an­i­mal wel­fare or the en­vi­ron­ment. They need to find an­other way to do it.

Re­search helps. Af­ter five years of in­ten­sive study,

a lab at the Uni­ver­sity of Guelph led by Prof. Al­lan King has come up with an an­swer to some of the causes be­hind small pig lit­ters and piglet deaths. And lately they’ve put a dol­lar fig­ure to it.

They found that screen­ing boars (male pigs) for a ge­netic ab­nor­mal­ity called chro­mo­some translo­ca­tion that causes these pre­na­tal piglet deaths and smaller lit­ters is close to 5.30:1 – for ev­ery dol­lar in­vested, rev­enue in­creases by $5.30.

That trans­lates to nearly $7,500 in a 500-sow herd. That’s sig­nif­i­cantly higher than the 3:1 re­turn re­searchers es­ti­mated when they first iden­ti­fied the ab­nor­mal­ity.

When farm­ers make more rev­enue, they can pass those sav­ings into con­sumers by keep­ing the price of food down. It’s even bet­ter when those sav­ings can be as­sisted by a rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive lab test, rather than with ad­di­tional equip­ment or some­thing equally as costly.

The new re­search is con­tained in a re­port by Clau­dia Sch­midt and Al Mus­sell at Guelph’s AgriFood Eco­nomic Sys­tems. The sav­ings they found are based on test­ing and to­tally screen­ing out boars with the chro­mo­some translo­ca­tion, and re­duc­ing pre­na­tal piglet loss, which can re­sult in about 100 more piglets born per year.

The ac­tual ben­e­fit per farm will de­pend on a va­ri­ety of pro­duc­tion fac­tors, they say. The higher the gross mar­gin per hog, the higher the re­turn on in­vest­ment for test­ing the boar.

But over­all the sav­ings are eye open­ing.

“De­creased fer­til­ity, through chro­mo­so­mal ab­nor­mal­i­ties, can sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce rev­enues and prof­itabil­ity of hog pro­duc­tion,” they say.

The ab­nor­mal­ity hap­pens nat­u­rally, when cells di­vide and genes line up im­prop­erly. It can be passed on to sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tions and re­sult in three or four fewer piglets per lit­ter than nor­mal. It’s easy to miss be­cause boars af­fected by the ab­nor­mal­ity show no out­ward signs of prob­lems. That’s where screen­ing comes in.

With sup­port from the On­tario Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Food and Ru­ral Af­fairs, the Canada Re­search Chairs’ pro­gram and Guelph’s De­part­ment of Bio­med­i­cal Sciences, King and his team have worked with pig pro­duc­ers for five years to as­sess the ac­cu­racy of their test.

Most re­cently, this re­search sparked a spin-off com­pany by King, and re­search as­so­ciate Kevin Kuschke, called Kary­otekk Inc., cre­ated with help from the uni­ver­sity’s Re­search In­no­va­tion Of­fice.

Test­ing is car­ried out at the On­tario Ve­teri­nary Col­lege, in con­junc­tion with Guelph’s An­i­mal Health Lab­o­ra­tory. It’s one of a half-dozen labs world­wide test­ing for chro­mo­some translo­ca­tion.

King says the sav­ings to pro­duc­ers are timely, as do­mes­tic con­sump­tion wanes and mar­gins tighten even more.

“This test­ing pro­ce­dure gives pro­duc­ers greater con­trol over re­pro­duc­tion in their herds,” he says.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.