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Innovation for Sustainable Growth in the Pork Sector

Swine Cluster 4 is the fourth Canada-wide collaborative research and knowledge transfer program developed and managed by Swine Innovation Porc since 2010. This program is focused on fostering continued sustainability, resiliency, and growth in the Canadian pork sector.

Swine Cluster 4 at a glance


Million Program

from 2023-2028

$10.63 M

$9.53 M

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Industry partners




Research institutions


Industry partners


International collaboration

Research Collaboration and Coordination by the Numbers

* Several research projects cut-across multiple themes. This image presents the primary research areas targeted by Cluster 4 projects.


Research Projects

Cluster projects are targeting key sector priorities

In addition to research investments, the Swine Cluster enables research coordination and knowledge transfer activities

Swine Cluster 4

Environment & Climate

Strategies to optimize phosphorus and nitrogen utilization to reduce the environmental footprint and green house gas (GHG) emissions of Canadian pig production.

Project Lead: Marie-Pierre Létourneau Montminy, Laval University

Objective: To understand what nutritional strategies could be implemented to lower the environmental footprint of swine production and increase its competitiveness. This project may assist the Canadian swine industry in mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) excretion and thereby reduce the environmental impact of pork production.

Improving swine manure digestate management practices towards carbon neutrality with zero emission concepts.

Project Lead: Rajinikanth Rajagopal, AAFC (Sherbrooke)

Objective: This project aims to quantify baseline emissions and develop manure management strategies and technologies as mitigation options to reduce emissions from storage throughout its utilization chain and renewable energy options (e.g., biogas) to ensure sustainability, improve resource utilization and recycling. This project will also update a Holos and fugitive emission model that will incorporate Carbon intensity (CI) scores for biomethane production from a manure management standpoint.

Reducing environmental footprint, feed cost and enhancing global competitiveness of Canadian pork production by increased utilization of energy, nutrients and feedstuffs fed to growing-finishing pigs

Project Co-Leads: Ruurd Zijlstra, University of Alberta; Martin Nyachoti, University of Manitoba

Objective: To develop cost-effective and flexible feeding strategies for grow-finish pigs and enhance sustainable dietary energy and nutrient use. The grow-finish production phase, considered responsible for about 80% of feed consumed in the swine sector and about 70% of the nutrient excretion, is the target phase.

Science-Based Application of Various Forms of Swine Manure to improve the Environment and Production Sustainability while Maximizing Nutrient Use Efficiency and Farming Profitability

Project Lead: Tiequan Zhang, AAFC (Harrow)

Objective: To assess swine manure as a viable, lower cost alternative to commercial fertilizers. This research project will result in user-friendly manure management tools for improved manure application decisions. Resulting best management practices (BMPs) will better meet crop nutrient needs without overapplication of nitrogen and phosphorus, minimizing GHG emissions and nutrient runoff losses. Potential reduction of GHG emissions by 10 – 20% via replacement of mineral fertilizers with manure and the developed manure management technologies are projected.

Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, feeding costs and labour requirements by using precision feeding techniques in commercial pig farms

Project Lead: Aline Remus, AAFC (Sherbrooke)

Objective: To bring precision feeding techniques to commercial farms by updating the current real-time mathematical model for individual (IPF) and group (GPF) precision feeding to minimize climate change (CO2 equivalent emissions) and environmental [Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorus (P) losses] impacts from feed production to soil manure applications (including manure handling, transformation, and applications), as well as feeding costs and farm labour requirements in commercial farms.

Sector Resilience

Integrated Approaches to Replace Antimicrobials and Promote Health in Weaned Piglet

Project Lead: Chengbo Yang, University of Manitoba

Objective: This research project will investigate combinations of antibiotic alternatives such as bacteriophages, probiotics, and functional amino acids to promote gut health, strong growth performance and protection against enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC), Strep. suis and Salmonella. Studies on combination strategies, dose levels, efficacy and delivery mechanisms (e.g., encapsulation) will give the Canadian pork industry important tools to ensure good gut health, resistance to common pathogens, and good growth performance without antibiotics.

Development of an oral vaccine to protect piglets against infection with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus.

Project Lead: Doug Cossar, PlantForm Corporation

Objective: To develop an oral plant-expressed vaccine for delivery to pregnant sows in their feed, enabling transfer of protective antibodies to piglets via sow milk. In addition to the direct benefits of such a vaccine on animal health and welfare, there are economic advantages ranging from avoiding outbreak-related costs to more cost-effective vaccine delivery via feed without specialized equipment or personnel. The vaccine itself is expected to be relatively inexpensive to produce and the innovative technology could be applicable to other viral and microbial diseases.

Development of multivalent vaccines for porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED)

Project Lead: Qiang Liu, VIDO, University of Saskatchewan

Objective: This research project will employ a two-pronged approach for vaccine development. First, an existing vaccine, based on inactivated-virus technology, will be optimised to provide a timely supply to producers. Second, a multivalent subunit vaccine, effective against two current PEDv strains will be developed for commercialization. This subunit vaccine platform will also allow rapid response to future PEDv variants which is important insurance against the industry-damaging impacts of the cyclic outbreaks.

 A pan-Canadian epidemiologic observational case-control study of post-weaning diarrhea (PWD) on Canadian swine farms

Project Lead: Vahan Farzan, University of Guelph

Objective: To execute a pan-Canadian study of swine farms to profile the different virulence factors of the enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) types as well as the gut microbiome characteristics and related gene content associated with susceptibility to ETEC – one of the most economically significant endemic pathogens in the sector. Outcomes from this research will provide significant health, productivity and economic benefits to the industry as well as help reduce the use and need for antimicrobials during the post-weaning transition period.

Assessing the impact of weaning management practices, handling and transport of weanling piglets at different ages

Project Lead: Luiene Moura Rocha, CDPQ

Objective: To promote early detection of disease and behavioural problems which will allow proactive decision-making to ensure piglets’ health and welfare during the stressful weaning phase. In addition to the direct benefits on animal welfare, economic benefits will also accrue with industry’s ability to provide more robust animals to nurseries, reduce mortality, morbidity and antibiotic use during the weaning phase.

Economic Growth and Development

Developing a feeding strategy for the transition period to maximize sow milk yield

Project Lead: Chantal Farmer, AAFC (Sherbrooke)

Objective: This project will build on previous cluster research to investigate the impacts of specific dietary inclusions, including higher levels of amino acid lysine, on pre-farrowing mammary development and post-farrowing milk production and piglet growth. Anticipated outcomes include a new phase-feeding and management strategy targeting increased late gestation mammogenesis and lactation milk yield, leading to heavier piglet birthweights, greater piglet survival, and growth performance. This will lead to greater profitability as well as environmental benefits such as reduced nitrogen.

Altering sow microbiome to promote sow productivity and health and performances of piglet

Project Lead: Frédéric Guay, University of Laval

Objective: To develop dietary approaches that will improve beneficial microbiota in sows for their health and for the transfer of resilient microbiota to their piglets. This activity will also identify the transfer of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria which can inform actions to reduce the risk of intergenerational transfer of AMR. In addition to potential economic benefits of reduced production cost of at least 10% in the breeding herd from improved sow health and retention in the herd, additional increases in piglets weaned per sow can realize 15% increased income. Also, it is projected that the resulting decrease in sow mortality and culling combined with the improved sow health and nutrient utilization efficiency will decrease the carbon footprint of a sow farm by 15%.

Enhancing Robustness in Pigs Using Advanced Genomics and Machine Learning

Project Lead: Younes Miar, Dalhousie University

Objective: This project will overcome current limitations of conventional genetic selection methods for robustness by utilizing genomic tools in combination with different  machine learning algorithms. The results will include selection tools that can be used by breeding companies to provide more robust and healthy pigs to Canadian pig producers. Enhanced robustness  translates into increased survival, improved health and welfare of market hogs, in particular. More pigs reaching market more efficiently results in greater revenue. Improving survival rate, alone, is estimated to result in an annual industry savings of $18 million.

Identification and removal of barriers preventing the use of entire males for Canadian pork production

Project Co-Leads: James Squires, University of Guelph; Maria deRosa, Carleton University

Objective: To develop tools and strategies to produce high quality meat, free of boar taint, from intact males leading to important animal welfare benefits and potential economic benefits for producers. Outcomes will include validated genetic markers for selection of animals with undetectable boar taint, dietary strategies to control boar taint to optimize growth potential and meat quality characteristics as well as a rapid test kit for boar taint validated for commercial use by packers. This will support the development of strategies that strengthen productivity and quality without castration of male piglets.

Enhancing pork belly quality across the value-chain

Project Lead: Manuel Juárez, AAFC (Lacombe)

Objective: This project will use genomic selection strategies to enhance pork belly quality attributes using prediction and measurement technologies in the live animal and at the processing stage. This research, done in collaboration with genetics companies and commercial pork packers, will support the Canadian pork sector’s competitive advantage and profitability given that pork belly is the animal’s highest value cut of meat accounting for 15-20% of value. The export value of pork bellies has increased 30% since 2015. Providing consistent high quality pork bellies is expected to increase Canadian suppliers’ ability to achieve higher returns.


The Swine Cluster 4: Innovation for Sustainable Growth in the Pork Sector research program is led by Swine Innovation Porc (SIP), with combined investments from provincial pork producer organizations, leading industry partners, and the Government of Canada under the Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Partnership’s AgriScience Program.

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