The swine research programs cover a broad range of disciplines which aim to promote a human health and biomedical science, and support a globally competitive pork industry that sets benchmarks for production efficiencies, is sustainable, responsible and profitable. The department has a host of nationally and internationally recognized scientists. Coupled with modern equipment and facilities, research is positioned to meet the needs of the swine industry through the integration of applied and basic research. The disciplines include:
- Animal Breeding and Genetics
- Meat Science
- Physiology and Biomedical
- Animal Behavior and Well-Being
Animal Breeding and Genetics
The Animal Science Department has a strong history in swine breeding and genetics through internationally recognized pioneers in the field, such as Lanoy Hazel and Lauren Christian. Over the past decades, with a traditional emphasis on quantitative genetics, this program also emerged as a leader in swine molecular genetics and genomics. This research has been devoted to gene discovery and the use of genetic tests in the industry. Faculty from Iowa State University serve as the USDA Pig Genome Coordinator. Substantial emphasis is placed on the integration of quantitative and molecular genetics to enhance the efficiency, health, and productivity of pork production as well as interdisciplinary collaborations with colleagues in nutrition, physiology, meat science, veterinary science, statistics, and bioinformatics. Strong connections with stakeholders in the swine breeding and production industries ensure that the programs remain focused on industry priorities and that research results are effectively transferred to stakeholders.
Meat (Pork) science research has had a long standing history in the Animal Science Department. Through the utilization of modern pilot slaughter plant, processing floor and research laboratories, this program has the capability to do fundamental and applied research that aims to improve pork quality, safety and value. Applied research enables a response to industry and consumer concerns/demands to improve meat quality assessment and consumer satisfaction and food safety. Additionally, stakeholders are helped through the development of value-add processed pork products. Fundamental research capabilities allow the understanding of the protein chemistry and molecular biology involved in the transition of muscle to pork, which will improve pork quality. Furthermore, the program is at the forefront of method development for both meat quality assessment and food-borne pathogen detection.
Swine nutrition research involves two heavily integrated branches - applied swine nutrition and a basic program. The applied swine nutrition research program has three research themes: energy, ingredient evaluation, and feeding management. The basic swine nutrition program utilizes molecular approaches to integrate nutrient metabolism at the cellular level, in individual tissues and at the whole animal perspective with applications to the commercial swine industry. This research is centered on improved feed efficiency, intestinal health and function and fetal programming via the maternal diet. Both the applied and basic branches involve collaborative efforts with faculty in animal science, agricultural and bioresource engineering and economics, as well as staff at the USDA.
Physiology and Biomedical
Swine physiology and biomedical research places an emphasis on muscle biology, muscular dystrophies, reproductive physiology and the development of the pig as a biomedical model for human diseases such as obesity, insulin resistance and retinitis pigmentosa.
Animal Behavior and Well-being
The mission of this area of research is to develop sound scientific measures for swine production well-being, through a multi-disciplinary approach utilizing physiology, immunology, neuroscience, cognitive abilities, behavior and performance, and health. The findings can be introduced and applied back to current swine production practices to enhance pig well-being and to increase performance and health.