Swine research at the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) features a unique forum by maintaining both capital-intensive, confinement facilities and straw-bedded, alternative facilities for rearing swine. Our research includes animal behavior and well-being, swine nutrition, housing systems and energy conservation, all with the goal of providing producers with research-based production and management methods. We also seek to provide information for addressing consumer concerns on modern pig production. Used extensively for research, this farrow-to-finish operation has approximately 60 sows and the capacity for up to 1,700 growing pigs.
Research is conducted in collaboration with the U of Minn. Department of Animal Science.
Behavior and Well-Being
Animal welfare and behavior studies examine the influence of social and physical environment on behavior, welfare and pig performance. Evaluating and improving animal welfare is a main emphasis for WCROC researchers. One of our more recent projects focused on tail biting (.pdf) behaviors in growing to finishing pigs.
Our scientists conduct studies on group housing for gestating sows, deep-bedded farrowing facilities and hoop structures for growing and finishing pigs. We seek to learn the optimal floor space allowance for group-housed gestating sows, as well as growth performance (.pdf) and carcass quality of pigs housed in hoop structures. Learn more about our Housing research and research outcomes.
The swine nutrition program at the WCROC focuses on the nutritional needs of highly productive breeding sows, weaned pigs and market hogs in a variety of housing systems. Much effort is dedicated to the efficient use of co-product feeds such as those from the bio-fuel industries, ethanol and biodiesel. One of our more recent studies evaluated the use of zinc on improving piglet survival.
Energy conservation is on everyone's mind, including pork producers. Scientists at the WCROC are studying ways that pork can be produced using less energy derived from fossil fuels, which will reduce the carbon footprint of pork production, including teaming up with WCROC renewable-energy researchers. We collected data throughout the past year to establish baseline energy usage, and installed a solar panel on one of our finishing barns in June 2015. Learn more about energy systems in our swine production facilities, watch research with energy conservation (video), or view the Reducing Fossil Fuel Use in Swine Production (.pdf) presentation.
Outreach & Education
Swine outreach efforts focus on the production of high-quality pork within sustainable systems. Outreach projects address important issues facing pork producers, such as enhancing animal welfare and maintaining profitability of pork production systems, as well as biosecurity considerations. For further information and a listing of educational opportunities, refer to the Swine Extension site.