THE 2019 Australasian Pig Science Association Conference was held at the Hilton Adelaide from November 17-20 and saw more than 280 attendees treated to a diverse range of topics presented by invited speakers both from Australia and around the world. In this Chinese Year of the Pig and despite the horrors of African swine fever elsewhere in the world, outgoing APSA president Stuart Wilkinson urged all those in attendance to make the most of the four-day event by networking and learning more about pig nutrition, reproduction, genetics and many other topics.
The Australian pork industry is full of passionate people with a common interest of constantly striving for improvement in pig production and welfare, and this was evident after four days and 12 sessions of presentations.The question and answer sessions following each presentation showcased the immense knowledge of both presenters and audience members, with many interesting ideas and follow-up research studies generated through this format.
Of course, the social functions interspersed throughout the conference play a key role in allowing attendees a chance to let their hair down and connect with new industry contacts from around the globe. The Monday night official conference dinner held at the Adelaide Oval’s William Margery Room saw those from across the pig industry come together dressed to the nines and ready to enjoy a great night of excellent pork, music and presentation of the Batterham Memorial Award to Rivalea Australia research scientist Dr Fan Liu.
The conference dinner also saw the introduction of a new APSA committee in the lead-up to the 2021 conference. Outgoing president Stuart Wilkinson thanked the 2019 committee and welcomed the 2021 cohort comprising Robert Hewitt, Frank Dunshea, Rebecca Athorn, Emalyn Loudon, John Pluske, Jessica Craig, Taya Clarke and Kate Plush.
Tuesday’s networking function at Argentinian restaurant La Boca also brought out the best of those present over an otherworldly dinner comprising succulent cuts of pork, lamb and beef – truly special and genuinely delicious. APSA keynote speakers for 2019 covered a wide variety of disciplines, with Dr R. Dean Boyd kicking off proceedings on the Sunday with the AC Dunkin Memorial Lecture focusing on ‘Innovation through research in the North American pork industry’.
Dr Boyd and indeed all the keynote speakers maximised their time presenting in the Hilton Grand Ballroom and captivated those listening with examples and discussion of their novel research findings, which in some cases were part of world-leading research not seen before by many industry participants. Of serious interest to many was Tuesday morning’s symposium focusing on technology and innovation.
The three presenters piqued the interest of attendees and their presentations opened the minds of a large number of listeners to the plethora of benefits able to be capitalised on through effective adoption and implementation of cutting-edge technologies, with some game-changing discoveries and ideas revealed. Following on from the keynote speakers in most sessions were dozens of shorter presentations from researchers, students and pork industry professionals, continuing with a similar topical theme to the foundation laid by the keynote speaker.
These short but sweet 10-minute presentations ensured research outcomes were delivered in a timely and easy to understand format, yet still with enough time for questions and interaction with the audience. Highlights came from everywhere and of particular note was the exceptionally high standard of research and forward thinking displayed by the students who show plenty of promise for the future of the pork industry.
Speaking of students, the APSA Medal is awarded based upon the best presentation given by a student or scientist with less than five years’ industry experience at their first APSA conference. This year’s APSA Medal winner was Megan Hayes of the University of Melbourne for her flawless presentation on ‘Positive human contact reduces avoidance behaviour of gestating sows during routine husbandry procedures’.
Students and researchers are also encouraged to submit an abstract of their research for the conference, either through an oral presentation or a poster. The balance of abstracts submitted are presented in the form of posters. APSA’s Poster Award is presented to the creator of an engaging and eye-catching poster detailing relevant and interesting research.
This year saw an extremely high calibre of posters presented from across the industry, with the winner of the award being Australasian Pork Research Institute Limited Chief Scientist and CEO John Pluske’s poster titled ‘Feeding larger diameter pellets to pigs in lactation does not improve the weaning weight of piglets born to gilts but decreases the removal rate of pigs in the post-weaning period’.
While this is a potentially tumultuous time for industry, with pig prices still recovering and now the threat of ASF on our doorstep, a great many positive points for industry were presented during the conference thanks to world-leading science often being done right in our backyard.
You should save the date now for the 2021 conference as the week beginning on Sunday, November 14. In coming months, we will be running coverage in APN on a number of presentations from APSA 2019, so stay tuned to see some of the event’s highlights.