U.K. launches $3M imaging program to improve pig herd health and production

A U.K. consortium led by Zoetis ($ZTS) announced a $3 million project that will use visual imaging and digital technology to improve the health and wellness of pig herds with a goal of better production.

The project will run for 42 months and is funded by an Agri-Tech Catalyst Award from Innovate UK. The consortium will use the technology to observe the behavior of pigs and look for any early-warning signs of disease or stress in herds so treatments can be administered more quickly.

Zoetis Senior Vice President Michelle Haven

"We have assembled leading U.K.-based partners with a complementary mix of capabilities needed to uncover new insights for veterinarians and pork producers to enhance animal wellness, bolster production efficiency, and improve profitability and competitiveness," Michelle Haven, a Zoetis senior vice president, said in a statement.

The technology being used in the program is the next extension of the QScan video imaging system from Aberdeenshire-based Scottish company Innovent Technology. It is currently in use in the U.K., Europe, U.S., Canada, Brazil and China to monitor weight gain of pigs. The system provides producers with real-time growth information about their animals.

In other news related to swine production, the National Pork Board announced the creation of a National Swine Health Information Center that will be used as a resource for industry preparedness for diseases related to swine, according to a press release.

The center is initially being funded with $15 million for 5 years by the Pork Checkoff and will be governed by a board consisting of representatives from the National Pork Board, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) and at-large pork producers.

"We have learned a lot over the past year and a half from our experience with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus and we want to create a unique, collaborative system that will help us achieve our overall goal of preparing for the next emerging swine disease," Paul Sundberg, a vice president at the National Pork Board, said in a statement.

Officials were keen to point out that the center wouldn't be "specifically responsible for a disease response plan nor would it duplicate current AASV, NPPC or National Pork Board efforts." The USDA will continue its oversight and management of diseases like foot-and-mouth, where there is already a preparedness plan in place.

- see the Zoetis release
- check out the NPB release