Animal Science Departmental Report
Research Opportunities at the
North Carolina Swine Evaluation Station
M.T. See and E. van Heugten
The North Carolina Swine Evaluation Station was the site of progeny tests of 1,728 litters in the 1960s and nearly 7,000 performance tested boars were evaluated from 1973 to 1994. In 1995 the emphasis of this facility was changed to applied research projects that are conducted in cooperation with producers and agribusiness. This applied research program was designed to assist in the definition of production potential and goals, development of least-cost feeding and management strategies based on production economics, and to provide a rapid response to identified research needs.
The Swine Evaluation Station is ideally suited for testing animals that are representative of a particular commercial program, as well as, unique genotypes without compromising health security standards set forth for other NCSU operated swine facilities. This well isolated facility is located on the Central Crops Research Station just west of Clayton, NC (Figure 1). High health status can be maintained or disease challenges can be part of the protocol due to this isolation from other animals and because the facility is operated on an all in - all out basis. The physical structure (Figures 2 and 3) consists of 99 pens with solid concrete floors that measure 5’x12’.
Figure 1. Location of the Central Crops Research Station (click for larger version)
Figure 2. Swine Evaluation Station physical layout (*note: there is no pen 26)
Figure 3. Exterior of Swine Evaluation Station
Each pen is equipped with an individual stainless steel feeder and a nipple drinker. Nine bulk feed bins (Figure 4) are available and pigs are hand fed from carts equipped with electronic scales. A system is also in place to weigh back feeders for the measurement of feed intake. Loading chutes have been added that will accommodate any size of truck or trailer.
Figure 4. Bulk feed bins are available to accommodate up to 9 diets
Of critical importance to the success of this program is the ability to measure and evaluate pigs beyond what can be done in commercial production. Of primary importance is the fact that this facility was designed to accurately measure feed intake on a pen basis. In addition, we are able to manufacture, handle, and feed multiple diets that are not of standard formulation. The close proximity to Raleigh allows for access to NCSU resources and personnel. This provides the ability to conduct intensive research protocols that monitor and evaluate animal growth (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Real-time ultrasound services are available for the estimation of body composition
Program funding comes from two sources, a sponsor and North Carolina State University. North Carolina State University through the Cooperative Extension Service and the Agricultural Research Service provides salaries for principal investigators and technicians who conduct the trials, analyze data, report results, and care for animals. For each trial a specific Memorandum of Agreement between NCSU and the sponsor is developed. A research protocol is developed that is part of this memorandum of agreement and the protocols are approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Participation as a sponsor is open to any North Carolina Pork Producer or agribusiness that supports the North Carolina Pork Industry. The sponsor(s) typically provide the animals, animal hauling, feed, production costs beyond labor, and support for research protocols. Research protocols may include procedures such as real-time ultrasound (Figure 5), waste collection, water intake, chemical analysis, blood sampling or minor surgery. Sponsors are provided with the data and a written report prior to public release.
Dr. Todd See
Dr. Eric van Heugten