The impact of water quality in pig welfare earned veterinarian Diana Turpin the Australian Pork Limited award at this week’s Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, announced at the Canberra ABARES Outlook.
She is investigating whether improving water quality can boost productivity and animal health by studying the impact of a water sanitation program on a commercial farm south of Perth.
While the Australian pig industry has invested significant research dollars and time into exploring nutritional, health, genetic, environmental and behavioural strategies, water sanitation has not yet been a major area of focus.
Dr Turpin, a lecturer at Murdoch University, will be looking at whether the pigs grow faster and have fewer inflammatory markers when the water quality is improved.
“Water sanitation is quite an expensive process, so the producer really needs to know that they’re going to see improvements in their pigs as a result.
“It also has the potential to reduce antibiotic use on-farm. If we’re reducing pathogen load in the water, improving the quality, then potentially the pigs will be healthier as well.”
She also plans to undertake a cost-benefit analysis. “We’ll know the cost of installing the system, as well as continuously sanitising the water. Then we should be able to estimate improvements in production through feed conversion ratio figures.”
The project comes as producers and veterinarians are trying to promote antimicrobial stewardship on farms. “It is an important issue for industry,” Diana says. “You can’t remove the support mechanisms of antimicrobial use on farm without making other changes. “Improving biosecurity and improving hygiene are of some of the key things that we can do.”