PhD opportunity in pig health & welfare

Job Location: 

University College Dublin & Teagasc Moorepark

Closing date: 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - 17:00

Teagasc PhD Walsh Fellowship Opportunity in Pig Health and Welfare

Optimising feedback of computerised meat inspection findings and Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) monitors on farm to improve pig health, welfare and carcass quality

Ref. 2017089


Both respiratory disease and tail biting are multifactorial problems in pig production which cause poor welfare. They also cause economic losses due to the reduction in daily weight gain and feed efficiency as well as treatment costs. The latter often involves antibiotics which are also administered in feed on a prophylactic basis to prevent respiratory disease. Such use contributes to the risk of antibiotic resistance which poses a major global concern for human and animal health.

Feedback to farmers of findings on tail damage and lung pathologies at slaughter is an essential component of the control of these problems in pigs as the information can be used to inform herd health and welfare management plans.  In a recently completed project a protocol and associated prototype were developed to monitor viscera and carcass lesions (PIGWELFIND). This system has never been validated under commercial settings and so will form an important part of the work of this Walsh Fellowship (WF) opportunity.

Improved feedback to producers of pathologies found at slaughter needs to be matched with improved detection of disease and welfare challenges on farm. This can be achieved using precision livestock farming (PLF) tools. An automatic pig cough monitor is commercially kavailable as an early warning system for use on pig farms such that farmers can intervene at an early stage in the disease outbreak thereby reducing the amount of antibiotics required and also resulting in health and welfare benefits for the animals. This project also aims to determine the impact of such an early warning system on the use of antimicrobials on farm and on the severity of lung pathologies detected at slaughter. It is also hoped that by integrating data from the pig cough monitor with information from other sensors on farm that the precision in the detection of respiratory distress and potentially other problems such as tail biting will be enhanced.

Specific Objectives:

  1. To record antimicrobial use and conduct on-farm health and welfare assessments and carcass lesion assessments at slaughter to determine the effect of PLF sensing technologies applied on-farm
  2. To quantify the reduction/improvement in carcass and viscera based indicators of pig health and welfare in response to improved data feedback on the findings of meat inspection
  3. To develop and validate intervention strategies from some of the health and welfare problems identified in slaughter pigs at meat inspection

Requirements: Applicants should have an Honours degree (1H or 2H1) or a Masters in Animal Science, Veterinary Science or in another relevant discipline. A full driving licence is essential. The successful candidate will be expected to conduct field work on commercial pig farms and slaughterhouses and should have a keen interest in animal welfare.

Award: The 4 year PhD Fellowship is a joint research project between Teagasc and University College Dublin. The student will be based at the Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre at Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork and will be registered at UCD. The fellowship provides an award of €22,000 per annum, this amount comprises a maintenance award to the student and fees of up to a maximum of €6,000 per annum.

Application Procedure: Submit an electronic copy of your Curriculum Vitae (to include the names and contact details of two referees) and a cover letter simultaneously to: