TEAGASC MSC WALSH SCHOLAR OPPORTUNITY
Pig welfare and environmental considerations in outdoor production systems (OneWelPig) Ref: 2021222
The Irish pig industry is a highly specialized, homogeneous and intensive sector, with pigs produced indoors in large numbers on about 300 farms. However, many people produce pigs outdoors in a variety of systems including organic, agroforestry, or as part of a mixed farming practice, on a much smaller scale. Under both the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy and Ireland’s Animal Welfare Strategy there are ambitions to increase the production of pigmeat from such systems. This is largely because of their perceived ‘naturalness’ and environmental compatibility.
However, in reality there are trade-offs in these areas. Pigs outdoors have more behavioural freedoms but this may be counteracted by poorer health (e.g. parasitism) and performance (e.g. due to cold stress). Furthermore, as pigs are highly explorative, opportunistic foragers they can damage the environment (e.g. by eating or trampling young trees), albeit their presence could also improve soil health (e.g. because of their rooting behaviour). Finally, in spite of the wealth of anecdotal knowledge on producing pigs outdoors there is little documented evidence about the optimal ways to manage, shelter and feed pigs in such production systems.
This Masters project aims to characterise the welfare of pigs and their environment in different outdoor production systems while contributing to the development of a roadmap for a proportion of Irish farmers to transition to such systems. The student will be part of a multidisciplinary team working on a 4-year project that will use a ‘One Welfare’ framework to develop alternative high welfare pig production systems (OneWelPig).
S/he will collect data on pigs and their environment through visits to farms around the country (including Northern Ireland) and will contribute to the development of an online survey to collect data on management and feeding practices. The student who will be based fulltime at Teagasc Moorepark, will gain experience of survey design, on-farm data collection, and analysis through to scientific writing and communication of research findings to a variety of audiences.
Applicants should have a min 2H1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in Agricultural, Biological or Environmental Science (or other relevant discipline). A full driving licence is essential. The successful candidate should be self-motivated and have excellent interpersonal, and ideally animal management/husbandry, skills. For English language requirements click here
This Masters opportunity is a joint project between Teagasc and University College Cork (UCC), and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Competitive Research Funding Programme via the Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Scheme. The student will be based at the Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, at Moorepark in Fermoy, Co. Cork and will be registered for an MSc at UCC. The studentship is for 2 years with a stipend of €24,000 per annum, which is intended to cover both student maintenance and university fees.
An electronic copy of a Curriculum Vitae (to include the names and contact details of two referees) and a cover letter, which should describe your interest in the interaction between farming, animals and nature and the relevance of your undergraduate degree to this Walsh Scholarship, should be sent to:
Dr Laura Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Fidelma Butler: F.Butler@ucc.ie
Closing date: 10th June 2022, with interviews (via zoom) expected week beginning 27th June.